Deception in Volpone
In Volpone, Ben Jonson emphasizes the fun and the humor of deceit, but he does not overlook its nastiness, and in the end he punishes the deceivers. The play centers around the wealthy Volpone, who, having no wife or children, pretends to be dying and, with the help of his wily servant Mosca, eggs on several greedy characters, each of whom hopes to be made Volpone's sole heir. Jonson's ardent love of language reveals itself throughout the play, but especially in the words of Mosca and Volpone, who relish the deceptive powers of language. Volpone himself pursues his schemes partly out of greed, but partly out of his passionate love of getting the best of people. He cannot resist the temptation to outsmart those around him, particularly when fate delivers him such perfect gulls as the lawyer Voltore, the merchant Corvino, the doddering old Corbaccio, and the foolish English travelers Sir Politic and Lady Would-Be. Mosca too revels in his ability to beguile others, remarking "I fear I shall begin to grow in love / With my dear self," so thrilled is he with his own manipulations. His self-love, however, proves his undoing, as it does for Volpone. Both characters become so entranced by their own elaborate fictions that they cannot bring themselves to stop their scheming before they betray themselves.
Jonson's audience would have recognized both the wily Volpone and the parasitical Mosca as stereotypically Italian. English playwrights frequently borrowed characters from Italian drama and from Italy's comic dramatic tradition, the commedia dell'arte. Venice, the setting for Volpone, evoked the glory of Italian art and culture, but also Italy’s decadence and corruption, which the English view...
... middle of paper ...
...trations were well known to be more than just "a little obscene," as she says.
We are encouraged to laugh with Volpone and Mosca at the pretensions and hypocrisies of Lady Would-Be and the other ever-hopeful "heirs"; but ultimately Jonson chooses to punish the deceivers and asks us to side, however reluctantly, with the Venetian Senate in condemning them. Voltore, Corvino, and the others may richly deserve to be tricked, but Volpone and Mosca are not agents of justice, and we must not confuse them with such truly virtuous characters as Celia and Bonario. Nevertheless, Jonson gives Volpone the last word in the play's Epilogue, where Volpone asks our forgiveness, and we find ourselves in complicity with him once again. We are invited in the end to revel in the delightfulness of deception, and of language, and to suspend, if only briefly, our moral judgments.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Antitheatricalism and Jonson's Volpone Crossdressing in England was mostly opposed by the Fundamentalist branch of the Protestant Church known as the Puritans. The Puritan dogma, much like the concept of transvestism, was constantly challenged. Puritans found resistance in the religious authorities of the Church of England and the English government. Before 1536, the Roman Catholic Church was unimpeded and always won over Puritan proposals regarding legislation. Without a cooperative political ear, the Puritans resorted to experimental spiritual expression by changing their social behavior and structuring.... [tags: Jonson Volpone Essays]
797 words (2.3 pages)
- Ben Jonson’s Volpone is highly occupied with the evolving city setting during the early seventeenth century in London where international trade, migration and commercial commotion played the imperative role to shape and reshape people’s attitude to life. This evolving urban panorama entices moral decay of individuals and corruption in institutions. Fraudulence, deception, covetousness, greed, and selfishness become the means of individual existence in the exceedingly cutthroat money-making society.... [tags: literary analysis, cultural theory]
1927 words (5.5 pages)
- The Ambiguous and Separate Natures of Mosca and Volpone The "dynamic duo" consisting of Mosca and Volpone in Ben Jonson's play Volpone are consistently and inconsistently similar. Strangely enough, appearances can be both correct and deceiving indicators of each character's traits. The obvious notions of each player are often replaced by the intricacies of individuality. Considered together, Mosca and Volpone both are childless, unmarried, and cunning deceivers. They are both guilty of unbridled materialism and sordid betrayals.... [tags: Volpone Mosca]
490 words (1.4 pages)
- Among the Jacobean and Elizabethan dramatists, Ben Jonson's reputation always came second to that of Shakespeare. He was Stuart dramatist from England, literary critic and lyric poet. Ben was born in 11th June 1572 in London after his father death two months earlier. He became a playwright and an actor after fighting alongside the England army in Netherlands. Among his greatest works and play are the Alchemist and Volpone. The paper compares and contrast the two these two great plays by Ben; the Alchemist and Volpone, giving an insight of the mind and ideas of Ben, some which cut across most of his works.... [tags: Disguise, Greed, Elizabethan]
524 words (1.5 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Comparison Compare Contrast Essays]
1274 words (3.6 pages)
- Staging Volpone Jonson's Volpone, or The Fox is almost exactly contemporary with Shakespeare's Othello and contains aspects that some might view as its comic counterpart. Venetian corruption and the insidious influence of a mincing, unscrupulous servant are themes common to both plays. What, though, has this play to communicate to us. Themes of corruption and materialism, resulting in a misanthropic view of the world, might have been telling in seventeenth-century England, but it is of course extremely difficult to construe them as relevant to the world of today..... [tags: Jonson Volpone]
668 words (1.9 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Jonson Volpone Females]
1082 words (3.1 pages)
- Homosexual Overtones in Volpone During the Renaissance, women did not participate in the theatre; hence, men, dressed in drag, played women's roles. This particular characteristic of Renaissance drama adds many dimensions, erotic and social, to the spectacle on the stage. However, "The primary difficulty in surveying this landscape results from the strong indications that early modern eroticism was fundamentally different from that today. Consequently, the challenge deciphering what may be radically different cultural codes for the Rena issance is formidable" (Zimmerman 7).... [tags: Jonson Volpone]
479 words (1.4 pages)
- Many critics of Ben Jonson's 'Volpone' have argued that it is not a true comedy but rather a mix of tragedy, comedy, and satire. Many have also claimed that it follows the traditional beast-fable that can be found in the tales of Aesop. Although Volpone takes on some characteristics of tragedy, it seems to follow closer to the conventions of comedy. But it is not the traditional form of comedy. It is a play that takes on the form of a comical satire as well as a morality play. It also adapts the features of a fable in that it strives to teach a moral.... [tags: Ben Jonson Volpone Essays]
2996 words (8.6 pages)
- Volpone Volpone was first brought out at the Globe Theatre in 1605 and printed in quarto in 1607, after having been acted with great applause at both Universities, and was republished by Jonson in 1616 without alterations or additions. Volpone is undoubtedly the finest comedy in the English language outside the works of Shakespeare. Daring and forcible in conception, brilliant and faultless in execution, its extraordinary merits have excited the enthusiasm of all critics. The great French historian of English literature, Henri Taine, has devoted to it some of the most splendid pages of his famous work.... [tags: volpone]
654 words (1.9 pages)