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In context, Venice was the seat of decadence, making it the recipient of years of stereotype in English

drama. This Italian city was considered the root of avarice; Volpone inhabits this microcosm of Venetian
society. Jonson sets Venice as the backdrop to further the impact of Volpone as a satire of society obsession
with wealth. To summarise Volpone Hymm to Wealth God has been dispossessed; a grown man is
conversing with metal, foolishly dedicating his life to inanimate objects.

LC Knights explains that the opening scene signifies how religion and the riches of the teeming earth are
there for the purpose of ironic contrast. Volpone adoration of gold is a (perhaps exaggerative) comparison to
contemporary society praise of wealth. It can be argued that is not primarily a satire on society obsession
with wealth; other significant sources of comedy, such as irony, are present, ;Good morning to the day; and
next, my gold! Volpone opening line challenges our expectations. This is an example of situational irony;
we expect prayer to be sacred but Volpone makes it boorish and secular. The opening associates religion
with money, which is thought to be profane. Irony is a persistent theme throughout the play.

A prominent example is Mosca betrayal of Volpone, where the character at the bottom of the social food-
chain outsmarts the protagonist and procures the fortune the three legacy hunters strive for. Therefore,
critical analysis could suggest that Volpone is instead an ironic satire on social class in contemporary society
above all else. This is further evident when Voltore angrily expresses his anger regarding being dispossessed
by a parasite! A slave! after Mosca is appointed as Volpone heir. Voltore is outraged because a being of
social inferiority has triumphed over him. Contextually, in the Elizabethan world-view, the social order of
the class system is linked to the order of the universe, making any destabilisation in the class system
profoundly disturbing and needing rectification.

The social shame of greed and desperation are key themes in relation to satirising contemporary society
obsession with wealth above all else in Volpone. Most of the characters in Jonson play are barbarous, acting
out animalistic instincts and rejecting their conscience. The presence of this literary fable aspect is clear
when Volpone tricks Voltore into giving him, A piece of plate. He remarks to Mosca, and not a
fox/Stretched on the earth, with fine delusive sleights/Mocking a gaping crow?Animalia imagery
demonstrates the characters; unconditional greed, comparing them to savage beasts of nature. They
desperately cling on to survival, attempting to claim Volpone inheritance. With the use of this fable aspect,
contemporary society obsession with wealth is satirised, demonstrating how easily Volpone takes wealth
from other characters.

This literary genre is also evident in the Italian translation of the names of the characters. Volpone is a
cunning fox, circled by Mosca, a mischievous fly, who tricks the fox and helps the three carrion-birds
vulture (Voltore), a crow (Corvino) and a raven (Corbaccio) into losing their feathers (wealth). This imagery
emphasises the theme of parasitism in the play, where one life form feeds off another. Mosca references this
in his soliloquy, stating, All the wise world is little else, in nature, but parasites, explaining everybody is a
parasite. These characters goals are associated with living off Volpone wealth without doing any honest toil
of their own; this is at the core of the play, showing that contemporary society obsession with wealth is a
theme significant above all else.

Addressing Volpone as a satire comedy, as well as referring to the characterslack of morals, Venables
states,Volpone makes us laugh a great deal yet we have no doubt of the evil nature of the action we are
watching. In context, Christian teachings such as, Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money) (Luke );
influenced Renaissance Italy society. This establishes that greed for wealth made it difficult to get into
Heaven, so an Elizabethan audience would have a clear understanding that these characters are shameful.
Greed drives the search for wealth, only to end up making everyone in the play look idiotic, repugnant and
poorer (spiritually and financially).
Celia asks,Whither is shame fled human breasts? This emphasises that the play is didactic in relation to
greed for wealth, intending to teach the audience that this is morally and socially unacceptable. However,
most of the characters seem willing to use any means to secure Volpone fortune, relating back to the title
question; greed in;Volpone; satirises contemporary society obsession with wealth by demonstrating the
measures people will take to obtain it.

Corvino ignores his wedding vow to Celia; he renounces his wife, using duress to make her bed the
supposedly afflicted Volpone. Wedding vows were taken very seriously in the Elizabethan era in
comparison to nowadays. In context, the Catholic Church had a mass influence in 17th century Italy;
Catholicism teaches the Seven Sacraments, including the Sacrament of Marriage as a public sign of giving
oneself totally to one spouse in marriage. Corvino, supposedly entering sacred unification with Celia, is so
obsessed with his goal of acquiring Volpone fortune he abuses his promise of fidelity and sacrifices his wife,
selling her to an old man. Volpone victims are prepared to renounce their wealth in the expectations of
greener pastures. What is reprehensible is their readiness to sacrifice spiritual wealth and compromise their
family. This is relevant to the title question because Corvino satirises the extent to which contemporary
society may go to amass wealth; his craving is grotesque.

Additionally, Volpone scheme is overridden by his animalistic instincts and sexual desire for Celia; she
discovers the truth. When Volpone pursues Celia, it advances the audience consideration of Volpone as a
satire on society obsession with wealth, referring to all objects of human desire and not just money. Celia
beauty is considered to be an item that can be purchased, her appearance directly compared to material
property by Mosca, Bright as your gold, and lovely as your gold! Consequently, Volpone sexual greed
develops, exhibiting sex as an aspect of commercialisation. Celia offers Volpone her handkerchief, which he
interprets as symbolic of a sexual favour and potentially a form of currency for the commerce of sex.
Volpone language further imposes this idea, suggesting Celia can be physically bought and sold Use thy
fortune well.

He is positioning sexual desire as a consumerist product, offering money in exchange for sexual conduct.
Celia exclaiming, whose innocence/Is all I can think wealthy, or worth enjoying, contradicts Volpone offer
of material reward; being free of sin has more worth to her. However, as her efforts to reason with him are
ignored, Celia role offers a satirical contextualisation of the patriarchal society at the time of Volpone,
presenting women being treated like objects and currency as opposed to human beings. Jonson deploys Celia
as a device to demonstrate a fragment of society innocence, perhaps suggesting that the play is in fact a
satire on contemporary society patriarch above all else.

To conclude, Jonson heavily criticises society obsession with wealth, as it brings about a punishment that is
the primary irony of the play. Volpone declares, What a rare punishment/Is avarice to itself. This
punishment is exploitation of each character as foolish through their obsession with wealth. Volpone odious
craving for wealth portrays him as a futile, shallow solitary figure.

In the Epistle, Jonson succinctly conveys that the best reason for living is inheriting heaven, not worldly
wealth. The moral characters Celia and Bonario are given their rightful inheritances. Therefore, I conclude
that Volpone is a satire on contemporary society obsession with wealth above all else; although themes such
as irony and patriarchal society are important, they all relate back to contemporary society obsession with
wealth as a predominant theme.


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<p>Jonson&#8217;s naming of the character Volpone, Italian for fox, creates an instant image of
the character. I think that Jonson&#8217;s metaphor creates an image of a sly, cunning character.
Volpone asks Mosca for &#8220;[his] furs, and night caps&#8221; (P31). In staging the play, I
would dress Volpone in reddish brown clothes trimmed with fur to complement his character, but
not to distract from the fact that he is still a man and not a fox. I think Jonson is saying that he is
not an animal but has lost his human qualities. His name leaves the audience in no doubt as to the
expected behaviour of Volpone, that he will as a fox, outwit his associates. He confesses to
Mosca that &#8220;[he glories] in the cunning purchase of [his] wealth&#8221; (P21).</p>
<p>Volpone&#8217;s parasite Mosca, Italian for fly, presents a very different animal imagery
from Volpone. As his name suggests he circles the other characters and is quick to jump to his
next feed. He is completely aware of his parasitical nature and in his soliloquy, Mosca praises
himself for his skill and his art as a parasite. &#8220;I am so limber. O! your parasite / Is a most
precious thing, dropped from above,&#8221; (P123). Jonson adds to the imagery of a fly in his
style of writing of Mosca&#8217;s soliloquy. His speech darts around like a fly with many of the
lines ending in a buzzing sound. I think in this speech Jonson is emphasising the parasitical nature
of Mosca and the relationship between the fox and the fly.</p>
<p>Jonson uses a simile of a snake to illustrate true intention of Mosca. Mosca tells the audience
that &#8220;I could skip / Out of my skin, now, like a subtle snake,&#8221; (P123). I think this
imagery illustrates Mosca&#8217;s growth as a character, as like a snake he is growing out of his
old skin as he feels more important and successful. I think Jonson also uses the snake to
symbolise the cunning snake in the Garden of Eden, which deceived Eve and led to the fall of
humanity. Mosca will deceive everyone and lead to the downfall of all the animalistic characters
in the play.</p>
<p>Jonson introduces the beginning of Volpone&#8217;s visitors with the metaphor of birds
feeding on carrion to illustrate the aims of the visitors. Volpone announces, &#8220;Begin their
visitation! Vulture, kite, / Raven, and gor-crow, all my birds of prey, / That think me leaving
carcass,&#8221; (P31). The names of the characters function as metaphors, which create images
of their true natures. The lawyer Voltore, named for the vulture is the first of the visitors hoping
to feed off Volpone. In the staged play I would dress Voltore in his black lawyer&#8217;s gown,
the drapes of the gown representing the large black wings of the vulture.</p>
<p>Jonson names the other two legacy hunters after carrion birds. Corbaccio the raven and
Corvino the crow, visit Volpone after the vulture in their natural order of the largest most
powerful bird first. Voltore who has more power as a lawyer, and then the smaller raven and
lastly the crow visit the carcass. Volpone announces Corbaccio&#8217;s arrival by &#8220;The
vulture&#8217;s gone, and the old raven&#8217;s come.&#8221; (P43).</p>
<p>I think Jonson also shows the hierarchy of the legacy hunters in the bird imagery.</p>
<p>The other character Jonson openly names after a bird is Peregrine. The metaphor of his name
creates a very different image from the legacy hunters, the carrion feeding birds. The Peregrine
Falcon has historically symbolised power, speed and pride. I think the role of the imagery Jonson
creates in Peregrine is to contrast with the other characters that feed off carrion, whilst Peregrine,
the Englishman is a skilful hunter. Jonson shows a contrasting character in Sir Politic Would-Be,
the other Englishman in Volpone. Abbreviated to Pol, he is a parrot and is anything but politic, as
is Lady Would-Be who chatters incessantly in the manner of a parrot.</p>
<p>This imagery highlights the comic angle of these two characters and also emphasises that
their chatter is not to be taken seriously. Sir Politic admits to Peregrine in act five, scene four that
he parrots his conversational subject matter from play scripts. &#8220;Alas, sir. I have none but
notes / Drawn out of play-books&#8221; (P255).</p>
<p>Ironically when Sir Politic wants to hide, his disguise is that of a tortoise. Symbolically he is
large and slow and unable to swiftly escape. As he leaves the play Sir Politic promises to
&#8220;&#8230;clime for ever, / Creeping, with house on back; and think it well, / To shrink my
poor head in my politic shell.&#8221; (P261) By this metaphor I think Jonson is suggesting Sir
Politic will from now on keep his head down and use discretion rather that pretend to be
<p>Jonson also uses animal imagery as the characters verbally attack each other. Corvino, when
attempting to prostitute Celia, accuses her of being &#8220;An arrant locust&#8221; (P157) as
like a plague of locusts she is ruining his chance of wealth, which is Volpone&#8217;s fortune.
As Celia is about to weep Corvino tells her that she is a &#8220;Crocodile, that hast thy tears
prepared, / Expecting how thou&#8217;lt bid &#8217;em flow&#8221; (P157). I think Jonson is
referring to the crocodile in the fable that cries tears whilst killing his victim. Jonson uses animal
imagery to debase Celia in Corvino&#8217;s attack on her in the courtroom and also
Corbaccio&#8217;s verbal abuse of his son.</p>
<p>Corvino describes Celia as being &#8220;more than a partridge&#8221; and that she
&#8220;neighs like a jennet&#8221; (P213). Jonson uses the imagery of a partridge as it was
traditionally thought to be lustful as was the jennet. Corbaccio accuses his son of being a
&#8220;Monster of men, swine, goat, wolf&#8221; (P211). Ironically in this metaphor
Corbaccio is accusing Bonario of being greedy, unclean and wanting everything for himself when
that was his own motivation. He is also by comparing him to a goat, accusing Bonario of being
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<p>Jonson uses animal imagery to identify the legacy hunters, and as Lady Would-Be joins the
group of hopefuls, Jonson places her amongst the animals as a she-wolf. As Volpone invents his
death he tells Mosca that &#8220;I shall have instantly my vulture, crow, / Raven, come flying
hither on the news, / To peck for carrion, my she-wolf and all&#8221;. (P235)</p>
<p>I think Jonson is illustrating that Lady Would-Be is no longer a chattering parrot but has now
become one of the greedy animals hoping to feed from the death of another.</p>
<p>As Volpone hears his punishment and is led aside his final line is &#8220;This is called
mortifying of a fox&#8221; (P297).</p>
<p>I think that Jonson uses this quintuple pun to provide different images of the end of the fox. It
is the humiliation of Volpone, bringing the fox to his death, tenderising animal meat or teaching
sinners by punishment.</p>
<p>At the end of Volpone, Jonson reinforces his moral message through animal imagery that
greed and wrongdoing will want more and more until it destroys itself. As the characters are taken
away to be punished the 1st Avocatore reminds the audience that &#8220;Mischeifs feed / Like
beasts, till they be fat / and then they bleed&#8221;