The Dutch Courtesan

A couple of exchanges from John Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan (from 1.2 and 3.1). I think the language is lively enough to stand without context or notes but there is an old edition available online that has a few pointers (here).

Surprisingly, there is also a complete filming of a 2013 University of York production available on Youtube (embedded below). I always prefer period-original productions but this one’s pretty delightful, especially given that there’s little to no chance of ever seeing another performance.

Cocledemoy. Hang toasts! I rail at thee, my worshipful organ-bellows that fills the pipes, my fine rattling fleamy cough o’ the lungs, and cold with a pox? I rail at thee? what, my right precious pandress, supportress of barber-surgeons, and enhanceress of lotium and diet-drink? I rail at thee, necessary damnation? I’ll make an oration, I, in praise of thy most courtly in-fashion and most pleasureable function, I.

Mary Faugh. Ay, prithee do, I love to hear myself praised, as well as any old lady, I.

Cocledemoy. List then:—a bawd; first for her profession or vocation, it is most worshipful of all the twelve companies; for, as that trade is most honourable that sells the best commodities—as the draper is more worshipful than the pointmaker, the silkman more worshipful than the draper, and the goldsmith more honourable than both, little Mary, so the bawd above all: her shop has the best ware; for where these sell but cloth, satins, and jewels, she sells divine virtues, as virginity, modesty, and such rare gems; and those not like a petty chapman, by retail, but like a great merchant, by wholesale; wa, ha, ho! And who are her customers? Not base corn-cutters or sowgelders, but most rare wealthy knights, and most rare bountiful lords, are her customers. Again, whereas no trade or vocation profiteth but by the loss and displeasure of another—as the merchant thrives not but by the licentiousness of giddy and unsettled youth; the lawyer, but by the vexation of his client; the physician, but by the maladies of his patient—only my smooth-gumm’d bawd lives by others’ pleasure, and only grows rich by others’ rising. O merciful gain, O righteous in-come! So much for her vocation, trade, and life. As for their death, how can it be bad, since their wickedness is always before their eyes, and a death’s head most commonly on their middle-finger? To conclude, ’tis most certain they must needs both live well and die well, since most commonly they live in Clerkenwell, and die in Bride-well. Dixi, Mary.


Crispinella. Pish! sister Beatrice, prithee read no more; my stomach o’ late stands against kissing extremely.

Beatrice. Why, good Crispinella?

Crispinella. By the faith and trust I bear to my face, ’tis grown one of the most unsavoury ceremonies: body o’ beauty! ’tis one of the most unpleasing injurious customs to ladies: any fellow that has but one nose on his face, and standing collar and skirts also lined with taffety sarcenet, must salute us on the lips as familiarly—Soft skins save us! there was a stub-bearded John-a-Stile with a ployden’s face saluted me last day and struck his bristles through my lips; I ha’ spent ten shillings in pomatum since to skin them again. Marry, if a nobleman or a knight with one lock visit us, though his unclean goose-turd-green teeth ha’ the palsy, his nostrils smell worse than a putrified marrowbone, and his loose beard drops into our bosom, yet we must kiss him with a cursy, a curse! for my part, I had as lieve they would break wind in my lips.

For comparison between the text and the stage, the first passage above starts at 11:00 and the second at 1:01 (both with minor vocab modifications for audience benefit).

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