Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 2 Scene 5 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 2, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Corvino berates Celia for making a scene with the "city's fool"—the mountebank—at a "public window." He accuses his wife of being attracted to the mountebank's wealth and wanting to "mount" him. Enraged by the perceived infidelity, he raises his sword to strike her. She shrinks away and begs him to "be appeased!" Rather than beating her, Corvino swears to board up the "bawdy light"—her window—and keep her further imprisoned. He vows to draw a line on the ground that, if crossed, will conjure "more hell, more horror" than she could ever imagine. He calls her a "whore" and threatens to make her a corpse for anatomical study.

Analysis

Through Corvino's violent, abusive treatment of Celia, the audience witnesses the absolute corruption of morality. Corvino's greed and jealousy have turned him into a monster, and he no longer sees his wife as human. Although the previous scenes in the play dealt with dark subject matter, this disturbing scene ceases to be lighthearted or comedic. It is the first glimpse into the message Jonson gives his audience about the dangers of avarice.

This scene also gives insight into Jonson's perception of the role of women in marriage. Because the play is satire, every stereotype is over the top, and Corvino's character is no exception. At the time, Italian men in English theater were depicted as violent and jealous. Jonson's portrayal of Corvino exceeds this stereotype by presenting a psychopath who would rather kill wife's entire family than be embarrassed by his "property" again. Throughout his lambast of Celia, Corvino mentions a variety of ailments, including "itching ears," and the graphic description of Celia's body on an autopsy table. These images, like Volpone's imagined conditions, symbolize the true disease—corrupted morality—that threatens the characters' lives.

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