Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719

Appearances and Reality
What Volpone and Mosca's victims perceive as reality is not the truth of the play. Each one thinks that he will be made heir to Volpone's fortune. Voltore attempts to deceive the court and is punished when the deception is revealed. Corvino is willing to seduce Volpone with Celia's body, although Corvino is also deceived into thinking Volpone too ill to make use of the young woman. Corbaccio is deceived into sacrificing his son's inheritance in a ploy to make even more money. The reality is that each will be left with less wealth. However, Mosca, whom Volpone trusts without question, is also deceiving Volpone. Mosca is the only participant who clearly understands the depth of the deception.

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Class Conflict
On first reading, it is not readily apparent that Volpone is concerned with class, and this is probably because class was not Jonson's concern in writing the play. However, the inequities in punishment provided at the play's conclusion create some questions about the role of class in this play. The judges say that Mosca, ''being a fellow of no birth or blood,’’ shall be whipped and then sent to a lifetime in the galleys. His punishment is much more severe than the that of the other participants because he has no social rank. Mosca is seized and dragged from the stage, as he cries out. In contrast, the other men involved accept their punishment, which does not involve whipping, with dignity. Only Mosca, as someone without birth or blood, is subjected to physical punishment and the indignity of being dragged screaming from the court.

Deception
The plot of Jonson's play is based on deception. Each of the three victims attempts to use deception for financial gain. But the victims are each self-deceived. Their willingness to believe allows the game to succeed. Each of the victims attempts to deceive Volpone, as each pretends to be a caring petitioner. Mosca and Volpone deceive each victim with the promise of greater wealth as a return for exorbitant gifts. The deception is largely dependent on none of the victims uniting against Volpone. Thus, when Volpone fakes his death and the three are brought together to witness Mosca's triumph, their joint misery and recognition of their deception leads to Voltore recanting his defense of Volpone.

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Latest answer posted February 20, 2010, 3:19 am (UTC)

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Greed
It is the victim's greed that permits Volpone's plot. Each victim seeks more wealth than he deserves. And each man attempts to bargain himself into a better position through more and more extravagant gifts. Volpone is also not immune, but his greed is not for more money but for more fun at his victim's expense. It is Volpone's greedy need to see his victims humiliated that ultimately leads to the plot's unraveling.

Morality
The play's resolution leads to the lesson, which is that greed will result in each man's downfall. Corvino loses his wife and her dowry, which he must repay at three times its worth. Corbaccio is banished to a monastery, and the estate he denied his son is turned over to the son, while the lawyer, Voltore, is disbarred and banished from Venice. Volpone is imprisoned and all his goods are dispersed to a hospital, a just punishment, since Volpone pretended to be ill. The worst punishment is provided to Mosca, who is of a lower class than the other men. Mosca is whipped and sent away to be a prisoner in the galleys for the rest of his life. Each man is justly punished for his greed and the morality of the play's resolution provides an important lesson for the audience.

Victim and Victimization
Volpone puts the definition of victim to the test. The initial victims of the Volpone's plot are victims because they are duped by Volpone into losing money and gifts, and they have enriched Volpone through their victimization. But are they are victimized by Volpone and Mosca or are they victimized by their own greed? They, perhaps, see themselves as victims of Volpone's cruel joke, but the audience would not have sympathized with them. The true victims are Bonario and Celia, who are unjustly accused and convicted of crimes they did not commit. And yet, as punishment is being dispensed in the final act, Celia pleads for the court's mercy for her husband, who would use her so basely.

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