Ben Jonson and Sir Politic

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  • Topic: Ben Jonson, Commedia dell'arte, Satire
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  • Published : December 24, 2010
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By: Benjamin Jonson.
(1572 - 1637).

Characteristics and Source of the Play
A dramatic satire on human greed. Set in Venice, but targeted at London as a place devoted to commerce and mired in corruption. Protests the inhumanity not just of greedy people but of greedy laws, i.e. laws made by the greedy to protect the acquisitions of the greedy. Draws on several sources: The classical satirist Lucian provides the theme of a rich old man playing with the money-grubbing scoundrels hoping to inherit his wealth. The medieval legend of Reynard the Fox contributes to the character of Volpone and the play's animal imagery. Roman comedy supplies some of the other characters, e.g. Mosca the parasite, Voltore the unscrupulous lawyer and the voluble Lady Would-Be. The Italian commedia dell'arte is echoed in some of the scenes, e.g. Volpone's wooing Celia in disguise as a mountebank. Note on the Characters' Names

Most of the names are Italian and suggest the characters' natures. Volpone (a magnifico) = fox.
Mosca (his parasite) = fly.
Voltore (an advocate) = vulture.
Corbaccio (a gentleman) = raven.
Corvino (a merchant) = crow.
Peregrine (a gentleman traveller) = falcon.
Bonario (Corbaccio's son) = good.
Celia (Corvino's wife) = heavenly.
Act II scenes tow summery
While discussing the death of Master Stone, a clown who Sir Politic believed to be a spy, Sir Politic and Peregrine are interrupted by the entrance of Mosca and Nano, in disguise, who begin to set up a mountebank's platform. Though Peregrine protests that mountebanks are "lewd impostors", Sir Politic insists that "They are the only knowing men of Europe!" Volpone enters in the guise of Scoto of Mantua, a well-known mountebank. Upon his platform, Volpone clears the name of Scoto and advertises his oil, Oglio del Scoto, as an elixir. Ironically, while doing so, Volpone notes that gold is powerless to heal bodily afflictions like colds, and that good health is priceless. He also claims that he...
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