Meaning of the Play

  • Michael Stout
Part of the Macmillan Master Guides book series (MMG)


Volpone can be read in many ways and on many levels. The text is complex and yields a variety of interpretations. Perhaps the most obvious reading of the play is as a satire. In his Epistle to Volpone Jonson stated that the function of a poet is ‘to inform men in the best reason of living’. He attempts to do this by satirising various vices and follies: greed, credulity, hypocrisy, lust, gluttony, pretentiousness and pride. Volpone and Mosca are the agents through whom the avarice of their victims is aroused and exploited. As Volpone says in I.iv: ‘What a rare punishment is avarice to itself,’ to which Mosca’s reply is, ‘Ay, with our help sir.’ Volpone himself is not above the dramatist’s satire, however, for in his very first speech in the play Jonson ridicules his adoration of gold and, later, his lust for Celia.


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© Michael Stout 1988

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  • Michael Stout

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