Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Volpone’s house

Volpone’s house (vohl-POH-nay). Home of the Venetian magnifico, whose name means “fox.” With an outer gallery or waiting room for dupes and a dazzling treasure cache, piles of gold, plate, and jewels hidden behind the rear-stage curtain, Volpone’s house is a handy location for storing the rich gifts of solicitous visitors. When guests are present, the drawn curtains hide this shrine to wealth, and the foxlike Volpone stretches out on his sickbed in gown, furs, and nightcap, as his servant, Mosca, ushers in the assorted base creatures.

Hiding places are important to this set, for Bonario must observe Volpone’s revelation of ardent passion unseen, just as Voltore must overhear Mosca and Corbaccio. Curtains close around Volpone on his couch as Mosca at a desk inventories the supposed inheritance of hopefuls.

Corvino’s house

Corvino’s house (kohr-VEE-noh). Home of a Venetian merchant, near St. Mark’s Place. The location attracts pickpockets, con artists, and schemers of every stripe. Corvino’s wife Cecelia looks down from a balcony, which opens into a room in Corvino’s house where he chides her. In front of the house, Mosca and a servant erect a stage for a medicine vendor to display his wares, and a disguised Volpone mounts the platform and haggles over high-priced quackery.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The period from 1576 to 1642 is considered the Golden Age of English drama, although it was probably not golden for those who lived through...

(The entire section is 657 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

A major division in a drama. In Greek plays the sections of the drama signified by the appearance of the chorus and were...

(The entire section is 499 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1605: The Gunpowder Plot is discovered. This is a plot to blow up the House of Parliament. The plot is attributed to Roman Catholics;...

(The entire section is 389 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Industrial Cinematográfica produced a Spanish version of Volpone, entitled Tiburón, in 1933. The film is distributed through...

(The entire section is 53 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, written in 1610, is another play that uses the farce or the con game as a plot device. In this case, a...

(The entire section is 258 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Ford, Boris, ed., Seventeenth-Century Britain, Vol. 4, The Cambridge Cultural History of Britain, (Series), Cambridge, 1989.

(The entire section is 349 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Barish, Jonas A. “The Double Plot in Volpone.” In Ben Jonson: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Jonas A. Barish. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Analyzes the play’s structure to defend the relevance of the subplot concerning Sir Politic and Lady Politic Would-Be, which he sees as a caricature of the main plot.

Cave, Richard Allen. Ben Jonson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. Devotes a chapter of analysis to the play’s plot, themes, and characters. Includes some discussion of the play’s production history.

Dessen, Alan C. Jonson’s Moral Comedy. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1971. Dessen devotes one chapter to a discussion of Volpone, which he sees as pivotal, marking a shift in Jonson’s perceptions away from the influences of the old morality plays such as Everyman and toward a satiric comedy that examines the moral implications of human failings.

Miles, Rosalind. Ben Jonson: His Craft and Art. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990. Discusses Volpone with particular attention to the techniques of Jonson’s satire, noting that nothing is exempt from his dark vision of human beings as jungle animals, quick to prey on one another.

Summers, Claude J., and Ted-Larry Pebworth. Ben Jonson. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A general introduction to Jonson and his work. Includes a discussion of Volpone that concentrates on the play’s satiric themes and structure.