Volpone | Study Guide

Ben Jonson

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Course Hero. "Volpone Study Guide." April 2, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Volpone/.


Course Hero, "Volpone Study Guide," April 2, 2018, accessed August 4, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Volpone/.

Volpone | Character Analysis



Volpone, known as "the Fox," is the play's titular character. A wealthy nobleman without an heir, Volpone devotes his time to the hedonistic pursuits of sex, food, and money. Rather than working a trade to earn his fortune, Volpone would much rather live as a trickster or conman. During the play, Volpone dupes three wealthy businessmen into thinking he is close to death so they will lavish him with expensive gifts in the hopes of being named his heir. Through Volpone's con, it becomes clear to the audience what Volpone actually treasures is his ability to manipulate others. Rather than enjoy the wealth once he's earned it, Volpone would rather risk losing everything just to gloat one last time. While Volpone's con against the greedy legacy-hunters seems comedic, his attempted rape of Celia casts his character in a much darker light. At the end of the play, Volpone seems deserving of his terrible fate.


Mosca begins the play as a true "parasite," clinging to Volpone's wealth and status. As the play progresses, the audience sees that Mosca, not Volpone, is the true mastermind of the con, convincing each of the legacy-hunters to hand over their most prized possessions. When Volpone wins his game, Mosca urges him to leave well enough alone, but Volpone cannot miss the chance to gloat one last time. When Mosca sees his opportunity to con Volpone himself, he lures Volpone into a "fox trap" in which he tricks his master out of his fortune. Although Mosca succeeds in proving to the audience he is the true fox, he doesn't escape the same disastrous fate as his master.


Voltore—"the Vulture"—is one of Volpone's legacy-hunters. A lawyer who specializes in wills, Voltore obsesses over whether he is Volpone's sole heir, but isn't as active in trying to hasten Volpone's death as his competition. Voltore gives an impassioned speech at the courthouse, which results in Volpone being acquitted of attempted murder, but later tries to recant his statement. Voltore's about-face appears to be motivated not by morality, but by jealousy, knowing a parasite like Mosca inherited what Voltore believed to be his inheritance. As soon as Voltore believes he may once again be in the running for the money, he convinces the court he is possessed.


Corvino—"the Raven"—is a successful merchant who uses violence and abuse to get what he wants. Married to the beautiful Celia, jealous Corvino locks her in a tower, beats, and degrades her. When he believes it will better his chances of being named Volpone's heir, he drags Celia to Volpone's bed and forces her to sleep with him. After Volpone's attempted rape of Celia, Corvino conspires with the other legacy-hunters to put Celia behind bars. He corroborates the story that Celia is having an affair with Bonario and had plotted to kill Volpone. At the end of the play, Corvino loses his fortune and his beautiful wife.


Corbaccio—"the Crow"—is a doddering old man who hopes to live longer than Volpone and be named his heir. Stooped from age, and nearly deaf and blind, Corbaccio's dulled senses symbolize his dulled morality. Whenever he visits, Corbaccio delights in hearing details of Volpone's worsening condition. He even brings a vial of "medicine," which Mosca believes to be poison intended to hasten Volpone's death. Although Corbaccio knows his own death is near, he seeks Volpone's fortune to ensure his son Bonario's future. However, Corbaccio is only too eager to disinherit Bonario in favor of Volpone because he believes Volpone will return the favor. He conspires with Voltore and Corvino to lie in court, and ends up disinherited and alone.

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