Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 1 Scene 1 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 1, Scene 1 | Summary



The play opens with Volpone, "the Fox," and his servant Mosca, "the Fly," discussing Volpone's incredible wealth. Volpone loves his gold more than anything, and he asks Mosca to open the shrine so he can gaze upon its beauty. Volpone admires gold in the same way others admire nature, poetry, or their children. He loves acquiring more wealth, although he would never work a trade to earn it. His current ruse is pretending to be near death. Because Volpone has no wife or heir, his wealthy business partners visit his deathbed with lavish gifts, hoping to buy their way into his will.


The play's opening scene sets the stage for the dramatic events to follow. Immediately, the animal folklore becomes apparent as character names are introduced. Volpone is referred to as "the Fox" and Mosca—whose name literally translates to "fly"—busily buzzes around while Volpone refers to him as a "parasite." From the moment Volpone begins to speak, the audience becomes aware how his obsession with gold has corrupted his morality. He speaks of a love for gold that, during a period of great religious fervor, would have scandalized the Catholic Church. He worships gold as others worship God, although he has no desire to earn it respectfully. He would rather, lie, cheat, and con his way to fortune—a sure sign of moral decay.

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