Literature Study GuidesVolponeAct 4 Scene 2 Summary

Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Volpone | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary



Lady Politick arrives, searching for her husband with the courtesan. She spots Sir Politick and Peregrine in the distance, immediately assuming Peregrine is a female prostitute dressed in men's clothing. As she approaches, Sir Politick tries to introduce Peregrine, but Lady Politick launches into a verbal attack against her husband for his "poor judgment" and dishonor in breaking his marital oath. Confused, Sir Politick stands by as Lady Politick calls Peregrine a "lewd harlot" and "female devil," claiming she will not fight her in the street because it would be unladylike. Suddenly horrified, Sir Politick admits to Peregrine that if he is, in fact, a hermaphrodite or prostitute, they can no longer spend time together. Peregrine tries to leave, but Lady Politick prevents him.


Lady Politick's reaction to Peregrine supports the stereotype that women are hysterical, irrational creatures who need men to keep them in line. Obsessed with her appearance, Lady Politick, who desperately wants to be seen as an upper-class, cosmopolitan woman, feels devastated her husband would sleep with a prostitute, despite the fact she offered herself for money to Volpone in earlier scenes. The exchange becomes even more humorous when modern audiences remember female actresses did not exist during the Renaissance. Lady Politick herself would have been played by a male actor in a dress—exactly what she accuses Peregrine of being.

Forever gullible and fearing being duped, Sir Politick recoils in horror when he suspects Peregrine has been tricking him into thinking he's a man. This reminds audiences of the foolishness in Sir Politick's character.

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