"Calumnies Are Answered Best With Silence"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Volpone, the Fox, a wealthy Venetian, pretends to be upon his death's bed in order to extort rich presents from a crew of legacy-hunters, each member of which believes that he is to be Volpone's heir. Volpone is aided in his masquerade by a servant as unprincipled as himself, Mosca, the Fly. After a visit by Corvino, the Crow, Mosca describes the charms of Corvino's young, beautiful, and virtuous wife, Celia, whom Corvino keeps under lock and key, so great is his jealousy and his fear that she will find a lover. Volpone decides that he must see this paragon and has Mosca set up a bench upon which he can stand to sell his medicines, as he is announced to the public as Scoto of Mantua, a famous mountebank, or traveling seller of remedies for all kinds of diseases. A naïve and credulous English knight, Sir Politick Would-be, who believes that he sees deep meanings in events that strike others as unimportant commonplaces, takes it upon himself to tell a gentleman traveler, Peregrine, all about Scoto of Mantua. Mountebanks, according to Sir Politick, are the only knowing men in Europe, scholars, physicians, statesmen, and counsellors to states. Peregrine replies that he has heard they are mere lewd imposters, but Sir Politick, pitying his ignorance, tells him that one does well to disregard such attacks upon character and refuse to say a word, for calumnies are answered best with silence.

Pity his ignorance.
They are the only knowing men of Europe!
Great general scholars, excellent physicians,
Most admired statesmen, professed favorites,
And cabinet counsellors to the greatest princes;
The only languaged men of all the world!
And, I have heard, they are most lewd imposters;
Made all of terms and shreds; no less beliers
Of great men's favors, than their own vile med'cines;
Which they will utter upon monstrous oaths;
Selling that drug for twopence, ere they part,
Which they have valued at twelve crowns before.
Sir, calumnies are answered best with silence. . . .