Ben Johnson was an Elizabethan English poet, dramatist and actor. A peer of William Shakespeare, Johnson was born in 1572 and died 65 years later.
He was a man of extraordinary literary talents and despite the fact that he didn’t go to university he was acknowledged as one of the most learned men of his day. He was friends with many of the other well known Elizabethan writers like Bacon, Shakespeare and Donne; in fact, Shakespeare even acted in the 1616 production of Johnson’s play ‘Every Man in His Humour’. Johnson is best known for his poems and satirical plays, of which the 1606 ‘Volpone’ is considered to be one of his best examples; it is a comedy/satire about avarice and lust
The play takes place over 24 hours in seventeenth-century Venice, and opens at the home of a nobleman from the city – Volpone (the ‘fox’). Seemingly, this nobleman is actually a con artist who has gained his impressive wealth through deception and other dishonest ways. As the play starts, Volpone is with his servant Mosca entering the shrine where Volpone keeps all his wealth and treasures.
The reader learns that Volpone is about to deceive yet more people as he tries to trick his alleged friends - Voltore (the 'vulture'), Corbaccio (the 'raven') and Corvino (the 'crow') - into believing that each is Volpone’s heir and that he is actually on his deathbed. What these three men do not know is that Volpone is in perfect health and feigning his illness to receive expensive “get well” gifts from these fortune hunters.
Mosca, Volpone’s “parasite” tells each of the men individually that they are heir to Volpone’s fortune so that they will return with yet more gifts.
Voltore, who is a lawyer by trade, offers the ‘dying’ man a gift an expensive platter, the old gentleman. Corbaccio is talked into disinheriting his son Bonario by Volpone and Mosca in favour of Volpone; Corbaccio thinking that Volpone is dying is not concerned about this. This...