Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 680
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.
Voltore (vohl-TOH-ray), the Vulture, an advocate. A ruthless and voracious scavenger seeking the spoils of the dead, he yearns for Volpone’s wealth. He is willing to connive whenever gain is apparent. A dangerous man when thwarted, he helps Volpone achieve acquittal in his first trial; then, tormented beyond endurance by Mosca, who pretends that Volpone is dead and has left Voltore nothing, the lawyer reverses himself and causes the collapse of Volpone’s plans.
Corbaccio (kohr-BAH-chee-oh), the Raven, an aged miser, feeble, deaf, and pathologically greedy. He is willing to risk his son’s inheritance to have Volpone exchange wills with him. He is also willing to have Mosca administer poison in Volpone’s sleeping draft to hasten the validation of the will.
Corvino (kohr-VEE-noh), the Crow, the merchant husband of Celia. Mean-spirited, cowardly, and insanely jealous of his beautiful wife, he is the most repulsive of Volpone’s victims. His greed is sufficient to counteract his jealousy, and he is willing to leave his wife in Volpone’s hands to assure his future as Volpone’s heir.
Celia (SEEL-yuh), Corvino’s virtuous wife. Cursed with a repulsive and pathologically jealous husband, the heavenly Celia faces her slander and perils with noble fortitude.
Bonario (boh-NAH-ree-oh), the good son of Corbaccio. He is the savior of Celia when she is helpless in Volpone’s clutches.
Lady Politic Would-Be
Lady Politic Would-Be, a parrot-voiced, shallow-brained Englishwoman. She grates on Volpone’s sensibilities so much that he is willing to lose the financial gains she thrusts on him. At any price, he wishes to be rid of “my madam with the everlasting voice.” Her unreasonable jealousy makes her a gullible tool when Mosca accuses her husband of having an affair with Celia; her resulting false testimony saves Volpone and convicts Celia and Bonario at the first trial.
Sir Politic Would-Be
Sir Politic Would-Be, a gullible, naïve traveler. Eager to be thought a member of the inner circle of state knowledge, Sir Pol has a sinister explanation for even the most commonplace actions. He furnishes the picture of the ridiculous English tourist on the Continent.
Peregrine (PEH-reh-green), a sophisticated traveler. He finds amusement, mixed with contempt, in the credulities and foibles of Sir Pol.
Androgyno (ahn-DROHJ-eh-noh), a hermaphrodite,
Castrone (kah-STROH-neh), a eunuch, and
Nano (NAH-noh), a dwarf, household freaks kept by Volpone for amusement.
Avocatori (ah-VOH-kah-TOH-ree), the four judges. The ambition of the fourth, to marry his daughter to Mosca, stirs Volpone to make his confession, which saves Bonario and Celia and brings punishment on the evildoers.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1442
Androgyno is a hermaphrodite and a member of Volpone's household, whose sole purpose seems to be the entertainment and flattery of Volpone. Androgyno, Castrone, and Nano's appearance in Act I is devised by Mosca as a way to further ingratiate himself into Volpone's good favor. The trio reappear during the play, as Volpone needs additional distraction or entertainment.
Avocatori are the four judges, who hear the trial of Volpone. In the first trial, they are deceived by Voltore's accusations against Celia and Bonario and the witnesses who have been called to testify. After Voltore is disinherited, he goes to these magistrates and admits his crime. The four judges, who are confused, discover the truth after Volpone admits his plot. These four magistrates pass sentence on all the conspirators and find justice for Bonario and Celia.
Bonario is Corbaccio's son. Mosca tells Bonario that his father is about to disinherit him and leave his estate to Volpone. And although he does not want to believe ill of his father, Mosca's tears convince Bonario of the servant's honesty, and Bonario agrees to listen to Volpone and Corbaccio's conversation. Bonario is an honest and good man, who saves Celia from Volpone's advances. However, because of Lady Politic Would-be's testimony, Bonario and Celia are accused and tried as schemers against Corvino. After the plots are discovered, Bonario is given his father's estate and his honor is returned.
Castrone is a eunuch, one of the freaks that Volpone maintains in his household. With Androgyno and Nano, Castrone's role is simply to entertain Volpone when he is bored or needs distracting.
Celia is Corvino's wife. She is honest and pure, the opposite of almost every other character in the play. As Corvino's wife, she is subject to his misuse, even when her gives her to Volpone in hopes of being made heir. Celia is told that Volpone is in such poor health that she will be safe sleeping by his side, but she is still unwilling to obey Corvino's wishes. When Volpone tries to attack her, Celia is saved by Bonario. Celia faces her trials with nobility, even when found guilty at the first trial. Celia illustrates the problems of women in this period. She is just some man's property, an object to be disposed of or sold.
Corbaccio (also called The Raven) is an old miser who also wants Volpone's estate. Corbaccio is feeble, deaf, and greedy. Volpone convinces Corbaccio to disinherit his own son, Bonario, and to replace him with Volpone, who will then leave his estate to Bonario. Corbaccio is completely taken in by this plan and even plots to hasten Volpone's death through poison. Corbaccio is so corrupted by Mosca's plots and desire for Volpone's money, that he even testifies against his own son at the trial. In the final act, Corbaccio is punished, when the magistrates send him to a monastery and instruct him to turn his estate over to Bonario.
Corvino (also called The Crow) is a rich merchant who seeks Volpone's estate. He is mean-spirited, cowardly, and jealous of his wife, Celia. But he is also greedy, and when he finds out that Volpone wants Celia, Corvino is willing to sacrifice his wife's virtue for money. Corvino leaves her in Volpone's hands as a ploy to get his inheritance, after Mosca tells Corvino that Volpone's doctors have said that a beautiful young woman should sleep by his side. To assure himself of Volpone's gratitude, Corvino volunteers his own wife, although he has been assured that Volpone is too feeble to take advantage of her. Corvino's punishment is the loss of his wife, who must be returned to her father with her dowry tripled.
Lady Politic Would-be
Lady Politic Would-be is the wife of the English tourist. She affects strange airs and talks constantly. She is very shallow and not very intelligent. Her constant empty chatter is so offensive to Volpone that he would rather lose money than have to listen to her one more moment. She is unreasonably jealous and acts the fool when told her husband is having an affair with Celia. Lady Politic Would-be gives false testimony at the first trial, and thus, she helps save Volpone. She tries to hide her mental defects behind cosmetics and dress.
Mosca (also called The Gadfly) is Volpone's flatterer, who plots against everyone else. He is malicious but also very witty. It is Mosca's job to convince each gift-giver that he or she will be the honored recipient of Volpone's will. Mosca carries out Volpone's plans, but he also conceives of pranks that take his master's plots just one step further. Mosca teases his master with descriptions of Celia, playing upon Volpone's desire for the woman, and ultimately leading to the collapse of the plots. Mosca is in love with himself, and like many men who are wrapped up in their own ego, Mosca underestimates his master. Whereas, Volpone loses with dignity, Mosca whines and curses as he is dragged away at the play's end. As a commoner, his punishment is more severe then Volpone's, and thus, Mosca pays a greater price for his greater plotting.
Nano is a dwarf, one of the freaks that Volpone keeps in his household for amusement, whose sole purpose seems to be the entertainment and flattery of Volpone. Nano, Castrone, and Androgyno's appearance in Act I is devised by Mosca as a way to further integrate himself into Volpone's good favor. The trio reappear later in the play when Volpone needs distracting.
Peregrine is a wise and sophisticated traveler, the very opposite of Sir Politic Would-be. When Lady Politic Would-be mistakes Peregrine for a courtesan, with whom she thinks her husband has been dallying, Peregrine thinks Sir Politic Would-be is without honor, and so devises of a plot to seek revenge and to diminish the English knight's ego and power.
Sir Politic Would-be
Sir Politic Would-be is an English knight, who represents the English tourist traveling through Venice. He has many projects to advance, but he is also naíve and gullible, seeing a spy around every corner. Sir Politic Would-be is eager to be thought an insider of politic doings. He also admires Volpone, does not understand that Volpone ridicules him, and in fact, wants to imitate Volpone. Since Volpone is never what he pretends, Sir Politic Would-be's imitation is an imitation of an imitation. Sir Politic Would-be is made a greater fool by Mosca, although it is unwittingly and unknown to the knight. As a result, Peregrine is also moved to make the knight the butt of his joke.
Volpone (also known as The Fox) is an old ''magnifico,'' who is more interested in the game of acquiring money than he is in the real property of money. He leaves no family to inherit his estate, and finds that pretending to leave his estate to his followers has created quite an interesting game. Thus, Volpone pretends to be ill in order to manipulate several men, who think they will become his heirs, and from whom he has acquired many expensive gifts. It can be argued that Volpone has some integrity, since he is not interested in tricking widows and children out of their money, although in truth, Volpone simply considers widows and children too gullible for his interests. Instead, he picks victims who present a challenge. Volpone enjoys the performances he devises and the disguises that he assumes. However, he has three weaknesses that make his plots susceptible to failure. The first weakness is Volpone's total trust in Mosca. The second weakness is Volpone's desire for Celia, at any cost. And the third weakness is Volpone's over-confidence in his own intelligence and his lack of appreciation of his opponent's intelligence. When his plots are discovered, Volpone is accepting of his punishment, even showing humor and resignation at the outcome.
Voltore (also known as The Vulture) is a lawyer who presents Volpone with elaborate gifts. Voltore is not alone in competing for Volpone's estate, since there are two others who are also showering Volpone with gifts. Voltore is a scavenger who seeks the spoils of the dead and who preys on the dying. He helps Volpone in his first trial, securing his acquittal, even suborning witnesses. But Voltore is dangerous, and when Mosca pretends that Volpone is dead and has left Voltore nothing, he engineers the collapse of all Volpone's plotting. Voltore is disbarred and banished when the truth is finally revealed.