the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Volpone Act I-II

While reading this satire, I felt that the dry humor about the banality of humans was remarkably like Shakespeare. The only difference is that Shakespeare used a lot more puns and double entendres while Jonson used a more simple language and the actions of the play directly criticized the vices. Jonson also used more plain names, that is names like "Fox" and "Raven" and "Signor Lupo (Wolf)" instead of Shakespeare's beautiful but obscure names.

The introduction to this play said that Volpone and Mosca were morally bankrupt, but they were no worse than the other characters, who came to bribed the steward of a dying man for his will and inheritance. As of quite, I don't understand the purpose of the dwarf or the hermaphrodite, but Mosca and Volpone have a good relation similar to a king and Fool. Even though Mosca says that he is merely repeating what Volpone has told him to say, I feel that Mosca is more intelligent than Volpone because he plays each 'vulture' to what works the best and promises to bring Celia to end Volpone's lust. The satire overall is pretty subtle, since Jonson is criticizing the greed of the townsfolk, trying to buy a dying man's affection so that they would inherit riches, yet at the same time, Volpone and Mosca are portrayed as greedy themselves. They are not fooling the people out of boredom, or to teach them a lesson; they feign death and lie to acquire more wealth, being sure to hold tightly to the gold and diamonds given.
Then, who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist? Surely the monetary object of the visits discredits the Castrone, Voltore, and Corbaccio...yet to have such an unscruplous villain, one who fakes death and covets another man's wife could not be the redeeming character in this play?

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