Comparing Othello and Volpone

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Similarities in Othello and Volpone Upon reading Shakespeare's l604 tragedy, Othello, the Moor of Venice and Jonson's l606 comedy, Volpone, or The Foxe, a reader will notice both similarities and differences. In both plays, we meet characters of "rare ingenious knavery." Indeed, Iago, Volpone, and Mosca are uncommonly similar in nature. An elaborate "con game" is practiced in each play through intriguing dramatic inventiveness. However, the focus of Shakespeare's tragedy is upon a noble and heroic figure; the focus of Jonson's comedy is upon a monster of depravity, a genius in crime. Comparisons between these great plays continues to pale when Jonson's script is held up to scrutiny. Whereas Shakespeare's seventeenth century work in comedy would turn continually toward soft edges, romance, and the pastoral, mixing both the serious and the humorous, Jonson established a reputation as one of the major social satirists of the English dramatic tradition. In fact, Jonson's comedies establish the tradition of social comedy on the English stage. In Volpone, although the satire is ultimately moral, its immediate aim is mostly social or legal. The play unmasks the artificial features of respectability, exposing vice and the manipulations of hypocrites. To his credit, Jonson did not altogether excuse the imperceptiveness of the victims in the play. Jonson's central characters are among the early models of "anti-heroes," a term generally restricted to characters found in Dostoevski, Sartre, or Camus. The specimens dramatized in Volpone are not merely fools, but money-hungry, lustful, morally despicable knaves. Their names immediately suggest their depravity because they are identified with the world of beasts. Thus, the lawy... ... middle of paper ... ... Now, though the Fox be punish'd by the laws, / He yet doth hope, there is no suff'ring due, / For any fact which he hath done 'gainst you; / If there be a censure him; here he doubtful stands. / If not, fare jovially, and clap your hands." Works Cited and Consulted Barish, Jonas A. Ben Jonson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice-Hall Inc.: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963. Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes. New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1970. Dessen, Alan C. Jonson’s Moral Comedy. Northwestern University. Press, 1971. Kermode, Frank. “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974. Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.

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