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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. Also, each character depends on some form of disguise- either physical or mental (1.1.
1,31; 1.2.73). Both lustfully desire women, are presumably childless, and unmarried (1.2.117-118). Mosca and Volpone are both alike in their linkage to their personalities by metaphor. Differences, however, arise soon enough.
The play's establishment of a societal hierarchy is a worthy consideration in the comparison of Mosca and Volpone. Mosca is bound and resistant to his subservience as a "parasite" to his equally dishonest benefactor (Volpone) (1.1.69). Mosca's pla
ce in society is much less considerable than Volpone's as his longer, more severe punishment reveals. Mosca is left without the saving graces of the status of gentleman (5.12.18). Increasingly, Mosca's metaphorical affiliation (the housefly) conveys his
common existence and non-influential social class. Further, Mosca resents being Volpone's support system and setting up his wealthy well-wishers for swindlings. Mosca is (at best) praised for being a "fine devil" (5.3.46). Also, as a parasite, Mosca f
eels the need to be appreciated for his services- "You see, sir, how I work/ Unto your ends..." (4.6.91-92). Another distinction between both characters is that Mosca feels proud (even in reliable soliloquies) of his prosperous misdeeds. Mosca remarks,
"I fear I shall begin to grow in love/ With my dear self..." (3.1-2). His pride grows into viciousness and a plot to kill his own master in a "Fox-trap" (5.5.18).
Volpone, while equally witty and deceptive, demonstrates he has more power in the relationship. Volpone uses this capability to attempt to claim Celia's hand despite Mosca's non-verbalized attempt to do likewise (1.5.108-116). As a nobleman, it st
ands to reason that Volpone is more "wrong" for his aspirations. However, in his pursuit, Volpone has real ethical problems (unlike Mosca) with his actions. He talks of expelling a conscious "humor from [his] heart" and cries "What a vile wretch was I"
(5.11.12-15). Mosca is also the driving force for rekindling Volpone's evil in the duo's attempt to "gull the court" (5.
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ple into falsities; he is these falsities in the flesh.
Through it all, a state of ruthlessness and deception embody each seemingly identical character. However, each must be taken for its own merit, his own soul, his own evil, and his own actions. Only by doing so can the reader achieve a true sense o
f literary justice, which one might feel the character (naturally) deserves.