Attitudes to Wealth in Volpone and Glengarry Glen Ross

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Attitudes to wealth in Volpone and Glengarry Glen Ross
Ben Jonson’s Volpone is an overt satire of greed which in no way covers up the numerous second meanings and implications found throughout the text that link towards the theme of wealth and the characters feeling towards monetary matters. Glengarry on the other hand is much more subtle in portraying all of its themes, including that of wealth, yet it can be argued that wealth is still the most prevalent theme within Glengarry due to the strong links with the American dream. Wealth is instantly prioritised from the first utterance of Volpone, “Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!” This utterance perfectly sums up the impact that wealth has on Volpone. As soon as he arises gold is the instant priority hence showing how overnight Volpone was most likely dreaming of gold, since people tend to wake up with the thoughts of the night still lingering in their mind thus implying that even subconsciously Volpone desires gold at all times hence showing the unfathomable impact it has on his existence. Wealth doesn’t seem to have this same impact on any men in Glengarry, they desire it to a large extent but the pursuit of wealth does not consume them like it does Volpone. This is evident in the fact that throughout the play apart from Levene complaining that he can’t pay his bills, wealth is never really mentioned at all apart from Roma’s sales pitch, which may not even be a true reflection of Roma’s feelings as all of it may merely be a sale. Volpone then goes on to say “Open the shrine that I may see my saint”. Saint is referring to gold and the shrine is the most likely the chest or drawer in which his riches are contained. This downgrading of religion can be seen as rather blasphemous which would have no doubt of been intended to shock renaissance audiences whilst also showing how Volpone is a man lacking any morals except the purchase of wealth since religion was the moral compass of the time and still is to an extent. On the other hand not one of the men in Glengarry has any shred of religion or culture within them. This is likely due to them being tired and weary of the capitalist system of individually pursuing money, yet the still begrudgingly do so. They all seem to be rather soulless and ignorant to any form of culture, which means that they do not celebrate money like Volpone does as there is no sense of awe. This completely contrasts Volpone whom can be seen as a renaissance man in decline as he still can be seen as being rather cultural like Hamlet, the epitome of the renaissance man, yet all of Volpones culture is aimed towards wealth instead perhaps implying the true renaissance era is coming to a close bringing forth a much more capitalistic society eventually culminating in the industrial revolution. Even though none of the men in Glengarry explicitly mention religion or wealth, subtly both themes are intertwined in an ironically obvious fashion. All the characters names have links towards biblical figures, such as Aaronow and Aaron, Moss and Moses, and Levene and Leviticus. Moses is an important biblical figure to use as a comparison as he was pursuing the Promised Land. In this case the Promised Land could be seen as the final goal of the American Dream, ownership of land, a family, and financial security. The American Dream is a corrupting influence on the men of the play as Moss is willing to steal in order to fulfil the goal hence mirroring the morally good Moses in the bible therefore showing how money has been the catalyst that has morally degraded men for generations. Not a single man in Glengarry ever attains fulfilment of the dream therefore implying that the American Dream is a lie which links with the literal promised land of the play that the salesman are selling for financial return. The customer whom buys into this notion is paying vast sums of money in order to achieve nothing worthwhile whilst in reality they desire valuable land...
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