Short summary of Ben Jonson’s satirical comedy “Volpone”

“Volpone, or the Fox” is a satirical comedy play written by Ben Jonson and first performed in 1606. The play is set in Venice and revolves around the cunning and greedy character of Volpone, a wealthy Venetian magnifico who pretends to be dying to manipulate others into giving him gifts in the hope of becoming his heir.

The plot follows Volpone’s elaborate scheme, in which he feigns various illnesses and disguises himself to deceive a group of greedy and gullible characters who seek to inherit his wealth. His main accomplice is Mosca, his clever and conniving servant, who assists him in carrying out the deception. Volpone’s plan involves enticing several Venetian citizens into believing they will inherit his fortune. Among the hopefuls are Voltore, a corrupt lawyer; Corbaccio, an elderly miser; and Corvino, a jealous husband. Each of these characters brings Volpone lavish gifts and bribes, hoping to secure his favor and inheritance.

As the play progresses, the characters become entangled in a web of lies, trickery, and disguise. Mosca manipulates and orchestrates the situations to extract more gifts from the unsuspecting victims. The comedic elements arise from the exaggerated and absurd reactions of the characters to their perceived opportunities for wealth and power. However, things become complicated when a young Englishman named Bonario arrives in Venice and suspects the deceitful plot. Bonario is the son of Corbaccio and is determined to expose Volpone’s scheme. He teams up with a wise judge named Sir Politic Would-Be, who is visiting Venice, and they work together to unravel the truth. In the end, the truth is revealed, and Volpone’s deceitful intentions are exposed. The victims, who have been manipulated and humiliated throughout the play, seek their revenge. Volpone and Mosca face punishment for their actions, and justice is served.

“Volpone” is a dark comedy that explores themes of greed, deception, and the corrupting influence of wealth. Through its witty dialogue, intricate plot, and memorable characters, Jonson satirizes the vices and follies of human nature, particularly the insatiable desire for money and power.

Also read: Summary and Analysis of ‘A Satire of Three Estates’ by David Lindsay: A Critical Look at 16th-Century Scotland