Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 2 Scene 2 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



Sir Politick Would-Be and Peregrine's conversation is interrupted by the arrival of two workers, actually Mosca and Nano in disguise, setting up a stage for Volpone disguised as a mountebank (medicine man) beneath Corvino's window. Volpone begins his animated speech to a growing crowd, describing the many ailments his oils can treat, including "cramps, convulsions, paralyses, epilepsies." He sells his medicine for eight crowns, which Peregrine notes is quite expensive. Volpone insists the oil is worth the high price because it's practically "miraculous" for all it can treat. Despite claiming his six servants cannot make the medicine fast enough to meet demand, Volpone drops the price to only a few pennies, and promises the first person to throw a handkerchief on the stage a special gift. Corvino's wife Celia leans out the window and drops her handkerchief.


Volpone's performance as a mountebank continues the theme of corruption. Desiring to sleep with Corvino's wife, Volpone dons a new disguise, taps into a different part of his personality—this time energetic and animated—and manipulates the situation to get Celia to interact with him. Just as Mosca altered his speeches with the legacy-hunters, so does Volpone read his audience and change his tactics to manipulate them into giving him what he wants. For example, when he sees no one is interested in his elixir for full price, he drops the price down to pennies without the audience losing their trust in his character. Once again, Volpone's speech about the many ailments his imaginary elixir can cure cues readers into his real fears of illness and dying. For all his pomp, Volpone reveals himself to be somewhat insecure, even superstitious, that something bad might happen to him.

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