Volpone

Volpone

Volpone Act 4, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A distance away from Sir Politic and Peregrine, Lady Would-be, Nano, and two waiting women enter the piazza. Lady Would-be is looking for Sir Politic, since Mosca said he saw Sir Politic with a Venetian prostitute. Lady Would-be wonders if her husband is already inside of a brothel. Complaining that the heat is doing more harm to her skin than Sir Politic is worth, she rubs her checks and complains that her makeup is coming off too easily.
Lady Would-be reinforces the idea that she cares above all about her appearance, which contrasts to the last time Celia appeared. She believes that Sir Politic has been corrupted by his time in Italy and is therefore with a prostitute, since travel had such corrupting potential. This is ironic coming after the previous scene, in which Sir Politic showed himself to be just as corrupt as any stereotype of Venetians.
Themes
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One of the waiting women points out Sir Politic, and Lady Would-be assumes that Peregrine is the female prostitute dressed in men’s clothing. Sir Politic sees his wife and tells Peregrine he wants to introduce her, complimenting her to Peregrine, who jokes that she must talk a lot if she is his wife. Sir Politic tries to introduce Peregrine to Lady Would-be, but she thinks that he is the prostitute, so she begins yelling at Sir Politic for being so dishonorable and for breaking his oath to her.
In this comic exchange, Lady Would-be believes that Peregrine is a lady disguised in a man’s clothing. This has some meta-theatrical irony, as Lady Would-be would have been played by a man in woman’s clothing, as women did not act in English renaissance stage productions.
Themes
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Greed and Corruption Theme Icon
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Lady Would-be then addresses Peregrine, saying that she doesn’t want to publicly flight with another woman, since it is not lady-like, but that it’s impolite for one woman to wrong another by sleeping with her husband. Sir Politic and Peregrine are confused, and Lady Would-be compares Peregrine to a siren, to a famous eunuch, and to a hermaphrodite. Peregrine comments that even Lady Would-be’s furious ranting is filled with literary references.
Telling Peregrine that fighting in public is not lady-like is ironic, since Peregrine is not a lady, and also since the role Lady Would-be would have been performed by a man. Her literary references show she is more educated than the typical renaissance woman.
Themes
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Sir Politic tries to say that Peregrine is a gentleman, but Lady Would-be cuts him off to yell that she is ashamed of him and that he should have more shame for spending time with a whore, a “female devil in a male outside.” Sir Politic turns to Peregrine and says that if Peregrine is, in fact, a hermaphrodite and a whore, he can’t spend time with Peregrine anymore. Sir Politic leaves and Lady Would-be begins yelling at Peregrine, saying she thinks that he is only dressed as a man to avoid legal punishment for being a prostitute. Peregrine asks if Lady Would-be always acts this way and tries to leave, but she grabs his shirt to prevent him. He jokes that she might be trying to give his shirt to Sir Politic, and he makes fun of her red nose. Lady Would-be remains furious.
In a new height of absurdity, the ever-gullible Sir Politic actually begins to believe that Peregrine is a woman. Lady Would-be is obsessed with her appearance, and she has even commented on her nose, makeup, and face color earlier in the play, which is why Peregrine’s jokes strike such a nerve with her.
Themes
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Greed and Corruption Theme Icon
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