Ben Jonson

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Volpone: Act 3, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

By himself in the street, Mosca says he’s afraid he’ll fall in love with himself and his talents, because his ruses are so successful. He feels whimsy in his blood, and wonders how success has made him feel this way, since he feels like he could jump out of his skin. He says parasites are sent from heaven, and he wonders why his craft is not an academic subject. Everything in the world, he says, is essentially a parasite or a sub-parasite. He doesn’t mean homeless people or beggars, or people who make their living by only flattering others. Instead, he means those who (like him) can nimbly jump from role to role, be anywhere at once and work well in all conditions. Such a person has the “art born with him.” He doesn’t struggle to learn it, but he practices it and builds the skill from his excellent nature. These people are the true parasites, and the others are just clowns.
Mosca grows more and more confident and independent in the course of the play, and here he seems to be overtaken (corrupted) by his own sense of accomplishment and excellence. Mosca believes the world order is made up of people like him, all living off of one another, but for him parasitism isn’t just about money. Instead, he (like Jonson in the opening) values those with theatrical skills and the ability to adapt seamlessly. The greatest parasite and greatest people, according to Mosca, are actors who are born with the art and language inside of them. It’s an interesting declaration—does Jonson consider himself to be a parasite?
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