Portrayal Of Women In Ben Jonson's Volpone

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Women for centuries have fought against a male dominated society in order to achieve a more equal standing. This same society and its stereotypes of women have proven to be a hindrance to accomplishing this lofty goal. These stereotypes prevailed in renaissance England and flourished in many of the female characters in the literature. Ben Jonson's classic comedy, Volpone, surely falls into this category. The portrayal of Celia and Lady Would-Be in Volpone reflects the misperceptions and low status of women in Renaissance England.

Celia reveals herself initially, however briefly, in Act II, Scene II. She does not speak but simply observes Volpone from her window, dropping her handkerchief to show her interest. This scene of Volpone down below on the street and Celia leaning out her window from above is reminiscent of the romantic stories of a lady-in-waiting being wooed by the gracious knight. However, Volpone's intentions toward the fair Celia prove less than honorable. Celia shows an innocence and naivety that proves endearing and repulsive at the same time. Although women had limited rights at this time, her lack of self-esteem feeds the stereotype of the beautiful woman who lacks substance. Celia finally speaks in Act II, Scene IV, in response to her husband's angry tirade. When Corvino demoralizes Celia by dragging her in from the window, she responds, "Good Sir, have patience." The audience instantly sees Celia as a victim, unable to stand up for herself. Because she has given up control of her own destiny to her husband, Celia plays the role of lady-in-distress, waiting for her knight in shining armor.

Corvino, so jealous that he locks his wife up in her room, does not fit the part of the white knight, but rather the vil...

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...presentation of one commonly held stereotype after another.

Even in the end, these two woman's actions continue to be predictable and dependent on the male persuasion. Lady Would-Be, after falsely accusing Celia, must return to England upon her husbands command. For Celia, there remains a seemingly happier ending. This happy ending, unfortunately, happens as a result of a man, her hero Bonario. Celia has been saved and will probably ‘live happily ever after' with her prince. Each woman has her life controlled by a man and shows no hope of ever being independent . By creating these two spineless woman with no real depth of character, Jonson has successfully propagated the stereotypes that have plagued women for centuries. Work Cited

Jonson, Ben. Volpone, or The Fox. Ed. Brian Parker. New York: Manchester UP, 1999.

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