Volpone

Volpone

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Corbaccio Character Analysis

Corbaccio’s name means “raven.” Another bird of prey figure, he is a doddering old man who, like Voltore and Corvino, hopes to be named Volpone’s heir. Corbaccio doesn’t hear well, and he is old and infirm, so his hope is only to live longer than Volpone. Whenever he receives news of Volpone’s (false) illness, Corbaccio openly expresses joy, even saying that hearing that Volpone is dying fills him with youth and energy. Part of Corbaccio’s desire for wealth seems altruistic, as he wants to leave his own fortune to his son Bonario. However, Mosca is easily able to manipulate Corbaccio into disinheriting Bonario. While Corbaccio initially does this in the hope of increasing the wealth he’ll eventually leave to his son, Corbaccio ultimately becomes corrupted and caught up in Mosca’s schemes, and the court forcibly transfers all of Corbaccio’s assets to Bonario.

Corbaccio Quotes in Volpone

The Volpone quotes below are all either spoken by Corbaccio or refer to Corbaccio. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Theatre and Appearance vs Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Volpone published in 2004.
Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

Mosca: This is true physic, this your sacred medicine;
No talk of opiates to this great elixir!

Corbaccio: ‘Tis aurum palpabile, if not potabile.

Related Characters: Mosca (speaker), Corbaccio (speaker), Volpone
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine, Gold and Alchemy
Page Number: 1.4.71-72
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange occurs during a scene in which Volpone is pretending to be ill to swindle his suitors. After Mosca says that Volpone has no faith in doctors or in medicine, Corbaccio offers gold to Volpone, and Mosca responds that gold is the true, sacred, medicine, calling it a great elixir. This continues the play’s pattern of blaspheming by substituting gold for God. Also note that “elixir” in alchemy is a substance that gives eternal life or transforms any metal into gold, so this comment reveals a deeper connection between gold and health than the simple notion that wealth imbues a person with unrelated qualities (like health or honor).

Corbaccio’s line in Latin translates to “it is gold that can be felt, if not drunk.” Drinking gold refers to the process of dissolving and drinking gold as a medicine, a tradition slightly different than (but related to) notions of alchemical elixir. In both cases, money is given healing properties and it is synonymous with health, so much so that Corbaccio almost takes the gold back since he wants Volpone to die, not recover.

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What a rare punishment is avarice to itself!

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker), Mosca, Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino
Page Number: 1.4.142-143
Explanation and Analysis:

Volpone speaks this line—perhaps the key line of the play—after he and Mosca have successfully fooled Corbaccio into thinking that Volpone is dying and that Corbaccio will be the heir to Volpone’s fortune. The line, we can note, is a quote from the philosopher Seneca, and Volpone is using it as a castigation of Corbaccio, whose avarice (excessive desire) has led him to be fooled by Volpone and Mosca into giving Volpone expensive gifts. While presumably Volpone thinks that this trick itself is Corbaccio’s punishment, he seems not to realize that the trick is also an example of Volpone’s own avarice, and thus he has just predicted his own downfall. In fact, the significance of the prophetic line is even more far-reaching: each of the play’s morally corrupt characters will ultimately suffer a devastating punishment because of their avaricious behavior. The underlying moral of the play is summed up by Volpone’s quote: excessive desire becomes corrupting, and corruption ultimately leads to punishment once the truth comes out.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

True, they will not see 't.
Too much light blinds 'em, I think. Each of 'em
Is so possest and stuft with his own hopes
That anything unto the contrary,
Never so true, or never so apparent,
Never so palpable, they will resist it—

Related Characters: Mosca (speaker), Volpone, Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, Celia
Page Number: 5.2.22-27
Explanation and Analysis:

Volpone and Mosca have just narrowly avoided being exposed, and they are reflecting on the scam that has happened during the course of the play. Volpone marvels at how Mosca has been able to convince Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino that they are all going to inherit the fortune, and that Mosca is on each of their sides respectively, all without them suspecting anything.

The “light” blinding the suitors could be imagery suggesting light reflecting off of gold, which Mosca and Volpone have claimed shines brighter than the sun. Mosca’s comment that the suitors are so “possest and stuft” with their own hopes that they are blinded to the truth is filled with meaning. Both possessed and stuffed can have meanings indicating wealth – possessed means in possession of property and a “stuffed man” is a wealthy person of substance. These meanings underscore what the suitors are after: material wealth. Possessed also carries the meaning of being controlled or influenced (either by an idea or a demon), and, likewise, stuffed can mean stopped up in reference to the organs, bodily humors, or the brain, indicating that normal processes or thoughts are prevented. Thus, Mosca indicates that the suitors are mentally, physically, and spiritually corrupted by their financial greed. This corruption affects them in the way that the play deems worst of all: it prevents them from properly distinguishing between appearance and reality.

There are two other possible interpretations of “stuft” worth noting. First, stuffed could refer to eating to the point of surfeit, adding gluttony to the suitors’ sins along with greed. Second, stuffed was also contemporarily used to refer to stuffed animals (early modern taxidermy). In this usage, Mosca could be joking with the play’s animal fable trope, suggesting that toying with the hopes of the suitors is akin to unnaturally preserving them. They retain the appearance of life (hope at gaining the fortune), and Volpone is able to profit off of them, but their hopes are really non-existent, since none of them will ever get Volpone’s money.

All of these meanings demonstrate Mosca’s skilled ability to use language, and they lend some credibility to his claim to hold the power of having the ability to manipulate appearances while maintaining the unique ability to see world as it really is.

Act 5, Scene 12 Quotes

Heaven could not long let such gross crimes be hid.

Related Characters: Bonario (speaker), Volpone, Mosca, Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino
Page Number: 5.12.98
Explanation and Analysis:

Bonario speaks this line in court after Volpone has revealed himself and the entire plot. This sentiment speaks perfectly to the play’s treatment of appearance versus reality and to the play’s moral lesson. The powers of theatre and language can manipulate appearances, and for a while, Mosca and Volpone were successful in fooling everyone. However, Bonario argues that the realities of truth, goodness, evil, and morality will always be revealed before too long. In a religious interpretation, it’s heaven and the will of God that reveals these truths. According to another interpretation, though (one seemingly offered by the play’s moral lesson), it’s the very evil deeds and avarice that bring themselves to light. Mosca and Volpone probably would have gotten away with everything if not for Volpone’s own excessive desire for pleasure and for ruses. Once again, avarice is a punishment to itself.

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Corbaccio Character Timeline in Volpone

The timeline below shows where the character Corbaccio appears in Volpone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
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...springs out of bed and praises Mosca for his skills. Mosca, though, tells Volpone that Corbaccio is coming, so Volpone needs to resume his ruse. Volpone says that the vulture (Voltore)... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
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...Volpone to pretend he is asleep. He then instructs the money to “multiply.” Mosca describes Corbaccio as an old man who is sicker than Volpone even pretends to be, but who... (full context)
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Corbaccio enters the room, and Mosca greets him. Corbaccio then asks how Volpone is doing, and... (full context)
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Volpone though, according to Mosca, is not interested in medicine. Corbaccio becomes defensive, saying that he oversaw the doctor making the medicine, which he promises will... (full context)
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Mosca responds to Corbaccio’s offer by saying that Volpone has no faith in medicine. Mosca reports that Volpone thinks... (full context)
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Elaborating on Volpone’s distrust of physicians, Mosca tells Corbaccio that doctors cut people open and experiment on dead men. They are not punished for... (full context)
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Corbaccio agrees that a doctor can kill anyone, then he changes the subject back to Volpone’s... (full context)
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After Mosca finishes reciting Volpone’s symptoms, Corbaccio wonders if it is possible that he is healthier than Volpone is. Corbaccio says that... (full context)
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To prevent Voltore from being named heir, Corbaccio presents Mosca with a bag of chequins (gold coins). Mosca takes the bag and says... (full context)
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After Corbaccio agrees to leave the bag of gold, Mosca encourages him to run home to name... (full context)
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Mosca assures Corbaccio that he’s on Corbaccio’s side, and, as Corbaccio leaves, Mosca yells jokes at him, since... (full context)
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Once Corbaccio is gone, Volpone jumps out of bed again and says he almost burst from laughter.... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
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...Corvino curses his bad luck and asks how it’s possible, to which Mosca replies that Corbaccio and Voltore gave Volpone some of Scoto the mountebank’s elixir. Corvino is furious at the... (full context)
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Mosca says he doesn’t know what happened, but that Voltore and Corbaccio poured some of the elixir into Volpone’s ears and nostrils and brought him to health... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Bonario walks into the street and Mosca recognizes him as Corbaccio’s son. Bonario, though, isn’t interested in talking with Mosca, since he thinks Mosca is contemptable... (full context)
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...reveal a secret because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. Mosca says that Corbaccio intends to disinherit Bonario as if he were a stranger. Bonario says that this story... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
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...praises Mosca for his “quick fiction” which got rid of Lady Would-be. Mosca says that Corbaccio is coming soon with his will, and Volpone says that he feels alive and ready... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
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In Volpone’s house, Mosca ushers Bonario to a hiding space to witness Corbaccio disinheriting Bonario. Alone, Bonario says he still doesn’t believe that his father is going to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
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While Corvino explains the situation to Celia, Mosca tells Bonario that Corbaccio isn’t to come for a half an hour. He tells Bonario to go into a... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 8
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...men always dread what they deserve, but when he opens the door, he finds it’s Corbaccio. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 9
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Corbaccio enters and asks Mosca why he is bleeding. Mosca explains that Corbaccio’s son, Bonario, somehow... (full context)
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Corbaccio then asks Mosca how Volpone is doing and if he will die soon. Mosca says... (full context)
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Voltore then steps forward, having seen Mosca apparently working with Corbaccio. Mosca is able to convince Voltore that he is only pretending to work for Corbaccio... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Mosca prepare to go before a court of law. Voltore says they’ve figured... (full context)
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...an aside to Voltore, Mosca makes fun of Corvino for being a cuckold. Then to Corbaccio, Mosca says that only Corbaccio will receive the fortune, and that the other men don’t... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
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Four Avocatori (judges) enter the court where Mosca, Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino have been talking. Bonario, Celia, the Notario, the Commendatori, and other officers also... (full context)
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...Bonario did not appreciate this and continued in their crimes. Hearing about his son’s behavior, Corbaccio decided to disinherit Bonario. (full context)
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...his lengthy, verbose speech, accusing Bonario of entering Volpone’s home with the intention of killing Corbaccio and regaining his inheritance. When Bonario was prevented from murdering his father, he dragged the... (full context)
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Voltore calls forward Corbaccio to testify, but Corbaccio cannot hear well, so he ends up only cursing out and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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...still suspicious of Voltore competing for Volpone’s wealth, but Mosca reassures Corvino and he exits. Corbaccio tells Mosca to go make Volpone’s will, and Mosca agrees, saying that a fee for... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...it incredible that Mosca has been able to convince all the men (Voltore, Corvino, and Corbaccio) that he is on their side without getting them to suspect him or each other.... (full context)
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...farm land, but no investment is more productive than taking money from Voltore, Corvino, and Corbaccio. Mosca then asks Volpone how he liked Voltore’s work in the court, to which Volpone... (full context)
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...what he is trying to accomplish. Volpone explains that all at once he’ll get Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Lady Would-be to come running, thinking that he is dead and that they... (full context)
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...of all he is inheriting. Volpone will then watch from behind a curtain as Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino become enraged and depressed. Mosca says that Lady Would-be will also come, and... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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...writing down. Voltore assumes the inventory is for him and asks to see the will. Corbaccio enters and asks Mosca if he is the heir, but Mosca ignores him, too. Corvino... (full context)
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Volpone watches in glee as Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Lady Would-be scan the will to determine who has been named heir. They... (full context)
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...own aside, Voltore says he believes Mosca has been fooling everyone else on his behalf. Corbaccio, who has terrible eyesight, is finally able to read the will, and he exclaims when... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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Corbaccio and Corvino are talking in the street, agreeing that they need to maintain the stories... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 7
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Voltore enters the street where Volpone (disguised) has just made fun of Corvino and Corbaccio for not inheriting his wealth. Voltore is furious, and he curses that he was fooled... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 8
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Corbaccio and Corvino reenter the street, where Volpone is still in disguise, in order to taunt... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 9
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...Voltore is just pretending not to be the heir in order to confuse Corvino and Corbaccio. Voltore gets furious and curses out Volpone, and Volpone responds that he knows that Voltore... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 10
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The Avocatori, the Notario, Bonario, Celia, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Commandatori all enter the courtroom. They note that Voltore is missing, but he... (full context)
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...to tell the truth, and he provides a written statement to the Avocatori. Corvino and Corbaccio know that their reputations are on the line, so they both say that Voltore is... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 12
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...while Volpone describes symptoms associated with possession. Corvino confirms it is the devil, and Corvino, Corbaccio, and Volpone perform an impromptu exorcism on Voltore. (full context)
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...as innocent as Volpone, who Voltore now says is still alive. The Avocatori, Corvino, and Corbaccio are all shocked and confused at the news. (full context)
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...into a good family. Volpone admits publicly that he has been fooling Voltore, Corvino, and Corbaccio. (full context)
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...sentence). For giving lawyers a bad name, Voltore is essentially disbarred and banished from Venice. Corbaccio is confined to a monastery and stripped of his wealth, which is bequeathed to Bonario.... (full context)