Is Mosca the True Comic Hero in Volpone: the Fox?

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Volpone, written by Ben Jonson, is about a wealthy con artist who is conned by his ‘parasite’ servant. It can be argued that his servant, Mosca, is the true comic hero of the comedy on account of him being imperative to the cons. The traditional comic hero is one who is able to make the audience laugh. Their status in society ranges between upper and middle class. In spite of events that may seem to cause the downfall of the ‘traditional comic hero’, conventionally, they have a happy ending and peace is restored to society surrounding them. In contrast, Mosca is not a traditional comic hero. He does not fit in with any of the traditional comic conventions. However, it could be argued that Volpone is not a traditional comedy either. This could be said because there is no happy ending as Volpone is imprisoned and Mosca is consigned to a slave galley. There is no marriage in the play and the so called ‘hero’ is imprisoned. Mosca is not of high status during the beginning of the play but tries to gain a higher status through the betraying of Volpone at the end. Does this make him a comic hero? It does to some extent, as he is portrayed as a faithful servant following his master’s orders and Volpone seems to trust him wholly and the thought of Mosca betraying him does not even cross his mind. However, common sense dictates that Volpone is the true comic hero as he is the protagonist and the play is named after him. Aristotle’s definition of a true comic hero is someone who has low to average morals and is also perhaps a ‘smart servant’. Mosca fits this definition perfectly. We have seen that Jonson is an enthusiast of Aristotle; already following the classical unities. Jonson says in his prologue: “The laws of time, place, persons he observeth;” (The Prologue, Line 31). The action of the play is restricted to one day and does not leap backwards or forwards in time, fulfilling the unity of time. The play takes place on a single stage set in Venice, fulfilling the...
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