Volpone (vohl-POH-nay), the Fox, a Venetian magnifico. Delighting in foxlike trickery, Volpone scorns the easy gain of cheating widows and orphans and the hard gain of labor. He chooses for his victims Venice’s leading crooked advocate, its most greedy and dishonest merchant, and its most hardened miser. The joy of the chase of gold and jewels belonging to others is keener to him than the possession. He also delights in acting, both onstage and off. To fool others with disguises, makeup, and changes of voice is a passion with him. His three weaknesses are excessive trust of his unreliable parasite Mosca, his ungovernable desire for Corvino’s virtuous wife Celia, and his overconfidence in his ability to deceive. When defeated, however, he shows a humorous and sporting self-knowledge and resignation to his punishment.
Mosca (MOS-kah), the Gadfly, Volpone’s malicious and witty parasite. Acting as the chief instrument of Volpone’s trickery and the frequent instigator of additional pranks, he keeps the plot moving. Under cover of tormenting Volpone’s victims, he often engages in annoying Volpone himself, almost always with impunity. His tantalizing of Volpone with sensuous descriptions of Celia sets in train the events that finally destroy both his master and himself. A master improviser of deceit and pranks, he becomes in love with his dear self, underestimates his master, and falls victim to his own overconfidence and greed. He whines and curses as he is dragged away to punishment.
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