Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 3 Scene 4 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 3, Scene 4 | Summary



Before entering Volpone's bedchambers, Lady Politick calls for two of her ladies to fix her hair and makeup, worrying the Italians will think an English woman like herself doesn't know how to dress fashionably. Lady Politick enters Volpone's room and the two discuss their dreams. To stop her talking, Volpone croaks that he is too weak to discuss dreams. Lady Politick begins listing various remedies she could concoct for him, which further annoys Volpone. He tries to offer Lady Politick a drink so she'll leave, but this only starts her blathering about various drink recipes she knows. When Volpone suggests a woman's greatest grace is her silence, Lady Politick talks at length about different poets.


Just like her husband, Lady Politick longs to be seen as proper, educated, and cosmopolitan. And just like her husband, this vanity leads to her look like a fool. She obviously doesn't pick up social cues, misunderstands literary references, and would rather listen to herself talk about her vast knowledge than engage in a meaningful conversation.

The conversation between Volpone and Lady Politick highlights the 17th century's rampant sexism. Volpone cannot stand Lady Politick because she talks too much, which he interprets as a weakness in her character. This contrasts with Volpone's views of another talkative character—Mosca—whose nonstop prattle Volpone views as an asset. Because Lady Politick doesn't have wealth to offer Volpone, as the other legacy-hunters do, it's clear Volpone hopes to receive another gift from Lady Politick—sex. To Volpone, women offer no other value to men than sexual pleasure. If they aren't doing that, Volpone wishes they would sit in silence, as Celia does.

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