Ben Jonson - Volpone, or the Fox

Jonson places the action of Volpone, or the Fox (1606) in Venice. The play is a comedy of humours in which the main plot revolves around misunderstanding. Satirical in tone, it presents to us humorous characters whose actions and thoughts are driven by greed. The characters are cruel and unscrupulous beasts, the caricatures of human types. They have an insatiable appetite for money, always willing to possess more. In order to get what they want they will not hesitate to manipulate others. They even have telling names which perfectly characterise their true nature. There is the title Volpone, a cunning fox, who feigns illness. Volpone is a wonderful actor, intelligent and sly. In his disguise as an old man on his deathbed he is trying to deprive his neighbours of their wealth. There is also his Parasite Mosca (the fly), Voltore (the vulture), Carbaccio (the crow), and Corvino (the raven). Volpone relishes the stupidity of the birds who, one by one, bring him their goods hoping he would make them his heirs. In fact, neither of them ever becomes one. Their passion makes the characters clever and at the same time gullible. It turns them into bestial animals and birds of prey. Finally, they achieve what they least dreamed of, their own destruction.

Volpone’s huge bed should be situated in the center of the stage. There, pretending to be ill and dying, Volpone is receiving compliments and gifts from his neighbours,. At the same time, however, he is watching the constantly growing heap of gold and presents, assessing their value. The number of potential heirs is also increasing. They may be waiting in a long queue, loaded down with goods.


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