Essay on Volpone – Disturbing or Funny?

Essay on Volpone – Disturbing or Funny?

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'It invites us to laugh at things which with only a slight shift of
perspective are troubling and disturbing rather than funny'
The backbone of ' Volpone' is a tale of a dark and absurd world where
twisted, greedy characters deceive and attempt to deceive each other. Despite
this bleak situation it is a very funny play, the humor increases as the
characters sink to new levels. This interplay of disturbing human fault with
witty humor does indeed allow us to laugh at situations that are at a second
glance horrific and  distressful. This tactic is Johnson's tool for the
juvenalian satire of the play's over plot, we are not independent of
Volpone's world as he warns in the prologue:-

'Only a little salt remaineth,
 Where with he'll rub your cheeks, till, red with laughter,
 They shall look fresh a week after.'

 We are warned that though this is funny it has a sting to make us
contemplate it more deeply. As the quote suggests the play does not always
deal with the twisted and disturbing, many of it's targets are minor and are
treated with fittingly soft satire. For example, the foolish Sir
Politic-would-be. However, this light relief often serves to enhance the
darker satire which has the dominant influence in the play. We are reminded
by the character's very animal names, that another look at this comic world
of fools, egoists and greedy men reveals a dark bestial horror, carrions
circling round a dying fox when infact the fox and his parasite are
entrapping them, the real predators.
 Evidence of the title view is shown in our first meeting with Volpone, the
visual impact of the scene is amusing, we laugh at this silly man talking to
objects and are enterta...

... middle of paper ...

...osed as fools. Even the
convicted innocents are so sickeningly and laughably righteous we find
ourselves siding with their more entertaining accusers.  However, a change in
perspective shows a troubling world where not only can the good be betrayed
by justice and law but also where goodness, honesty and virtue have no value.
The only tools for survival are money and wit, they are the only useful
attributes in this dispiriting world.
 In conclusion, from examining these moments that are funny and yet
profoundly disturbing I have realized their importance in ' Volpone'.
Laughing at something troubling and often wrong is the basis of Johnson's
Juvenalin satire. By inviting us to laugh at the troubling and disturbing we
are also invited to question why we are laughing, what this says about
ourselves and what we can do about it. 

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