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In depicting these characters, acting inside their “humours,” Jonson is subtlety contending that despite any “foxiness” of humans, Nature will put things right, because one’s vices will eventually cause the character’s downfall. The greedy character Volpone, for all his cleverness, cannot escape his own vice. This is the major “lesson” in all of Jonson’s “humour” plays, probably brought on by Jonson’s familiarity with the classics (Horace), in which the “gods” make human imbalances balanced again. While dramatizing universal imperfections in all mankind, Jonson is at the same time making critical comments on his own (17th century) society, and many of his characters are recognizable portraits (at least in his eyes, but also in the eyes of his audience and fellow-playwrights) of his contemporaries. His “vision of morality and Justice” in this play and throughout his canon is one of self-corrective Nature. Just as Corvino’s greed eventually makes him the victim of Volpone’s ruse, so the other characters are eventually exposed (Mosca here is an outward symbol of the small, irritating truth that will eventually bring human tricksters to their just ends.) That Jonson put his comedy in Venice lends some “distance” to the real exposure of his peers’ shortcomings.
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