Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 2 Scene 1 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



Two tourists chat outside Corvino's house, beneath the window of the room where he locks his wife. The men are revealed to be Peregrine, an English traveler, and Sir Politick Would-Be. As they discuss their various travels, Sir Politick Would-Be relates an outrageous story he heard about a raven building a ship for the king. At first, Peregrine thinks Sir Politick is teasing him, but he quickly realizes gullible Sir Politick actually believes the story, and that he would probably believe anything else he heard. To test his theory, Peregrine reports back equally absurd stories from England, including news that the lion kept in the Tower of London has given birth to another cub, and that porpoises were found swimming up the River Thames. The men enter into a lengthy conversation about a spy named Stone who recently died. Sir Politick claims insider information about how Stone received coded messages hidden in food. When Peregrine responds that Stone was illiterate, Sir Politick insists Stone's illiteracy was an invention of the press. Peregrine pushes Sir Politick further by claiming that Chinese baboons were recently discovered to be working as spies. Sir Politick quickly responds with more insider information about the baboons. Somewhat sarcastically, Peregrine delights in having met a man as well-educated and intelligent as Sir Politick, who could teach him the proper customs and behaviors of the city.


The relationship between Sir Politick Would-Be and Peregrine makes up the play's subplot. As Englishmen, they stand out from the Venetian cast and live in fear of being taken advantage of in their new environment. In this way, the subplot continues the theme of corruption as the tourists fear being corrupted by trickster Venetians like Volpone. Even Sir Politick and Peregrine suspect the other of trying to dupe him. For example, Peregrine genuinely cannot decide whether Sir Politick Would-Be is incredibly gullible, or is tricking him into thinking he's gullible. To test his theory, Peregrine tricks Sir Politick into believing absurd news stories coming from England. In this relationship, one deception leads to another, much like the audience will see in the relationship between Volpone and Mosca.

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