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Set in Florence, and preoccupied with the collision of rampant sexuality and women’s virtue, Behn’s second play parodies the aristocratic attitudes of Charles II’s court, comically exploring the effects of depravity and decadence in the highest echelons of society. The main plot concerns Prince Fredrick’s erotic pursuits, chiefly with the sister (Cloris) and fiancée (Laura) of his best friend and courtier, Curtius.
100 pages, with a reading time of ~3.25 hours (25,189 words), and first published in 1671. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Enter Cloris drest in her Night Attire, with Frederick dressing himself.
Clo. And will you leave me now to Fears, Which Love it self can hardly satisfy? But those, and that together sure will kill me, If you stay long away.
Fred. My Dear, ‘tis almost day, and we must part; Should those rude Eyes ‘mongst whom thou dwell’st perceive us, ‘Twould prove unhappy both to thee and me.
Clo. And will you, Sir, be constant to your Vows?
Fred. Ah Cloris! do not question what I’ve sworn; If thou would’st have it once again repeated, I’ll do’t. By all that’s good, I’ll marry thee; By that most Holy Altar, before which we kneel’d, When first I saw the brightest Saint that e’er ador’d it; I’ll marry none but thee, my dearest Cloris.
Clo. Sir, you have said enough to gain a credit With any Maid, though she had been deceiv’d By some such Flatteries as these before. I never knew the pains of Fear till now; [Sighs. And you must needs forgive the Faults you make, For had I still remain’d in Innocence, I should have still believ’d you.
Fred. Why, dost thou not, my Love?
Clo. Some doubts I have, but when I look on you, Though I must blush to do so, they all vanish; But I provide against your absence, Sir.
Fred. Make no provision, Cloris, but of Hope, Prepare thy self against a Wedding day, When thou shalt be a little Deity on Earth.
Clo. I know not what it is to dwell in Courts, But sure it must be fine, since you are there; Yet I could wish you were an humble Shepherd, And knew no other Palace than this Cottage; Where I would weave you Crowns, of Pinks and Daisies, And you should be a Monarch every May.
Fred. And, Cloris, I could be content to sit With thee, upon some shady River’s Bank, To hear thee sing, and tell a Tale of Love. For these, alas! I could do any thing; A Sheep-hook I could prize above a Sword; An Army I would quit to lead a Flock, And more esteem that Chaplet wreath’d by thee, Than the victorious Bays: All this I could, but, Dear, I have a Father, Whom for thy sake, to make thee great and glorious, I would not lose my Int’rest with. But, Cloris, see, the unkind day approaches, And we must kiss and part.
Clo. Unkind it is indeed, may it prove so To all that wish its presence, And pass as soon away, That welcome Night may re-assume its place, And bring you quickly back.
Fred. With great impatience I’ll expect that Hour, That shall conduct me in its Shades to thee; Farewel.
Clo. Farewel, Sir, if you must be gone. [Sighs.
Fred. One Kiss, and then indeed I will be gone. [Kisses her. A new blown Rose kist by the Morning Dew, Has not more natural Sweetness. Ah Cloris! can you doubt that Heart, To whom such Blessings you impart? Unjustly you suspect that Prize, Won by such Touches and such Eyes. My Fairest, turn that Face away, Unless I could for ever stay; Turn but a little while I go.
Clo. Sir, I must see the last of you.
Fred. I dare not disobey; adieu till Evening. [Exit.
Clo. How now, Lucia; is my Father up?
Luc. No, not a Mouse stirs yet; I have kept a true Watch all this Night, for I was cruelly afraid Lest we should have been surpriz’d– Is the Prince gone? but why do I ask, That may read it in your sad Looks?
Clo. Yes, he is gone, and with him too has taken– [Sighs.
Luc. What has he taken? I’ll swear you frighten me.
Clo. My heart, Lucia.
Luc. Your Heart, I am glad ‘tis no worse.
Clo. Why, what dost think he should have taken?
Luc. A thing more hard to have been Recovered again.
Clo. What thing, prithee?
Luc. Your Maiden-head.
Clo. What’s that?
Luc. A thing young Gallants long extremely for, And when they have it too, they say They care not a Daisy for the Giver.
Clo. How comest thou so wise, Lucia?
Luc. Oh, the fine Gentleman that comes a-nights With the Prince, told me so much, and bid me Be sure never to part with it for fine Words; For Men would lye as often as they swore; And so bid me tell you too.
Clo. Oh Lucia!
Luc. Why do you sigh?
Clo. To think if Princes were like common Men, How I should be undone, Since I have given him all I had to give; And who that looks on him can blame my Faith?
Luc. Indeed he surpasses Damon far; But I’ad forgot my self, you are the Prince’s Wife; He said you should be kneel’d to, and ador’d, And never look’d on but on Holy-days: That many Maids should wait upon your call, And strow fine Flowers for you to tread upon. Musick and Love should daily fill your Ears, And all your other Senses should be ravish’d With wonders of each kind great as your Beauty.
Clo. Lucia, methinks you have learnt to speak fine things.