Voltore enters Volpone’s house and asks Mosca what is going on, but Mosca ignores him and speaks out loud the inventory he is 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 enters, and wonders why Voltore and Corbaccio are also there. Lady Would-be enters and asks Mosca if she is the heir, but he just keeps taking inventory. Mosca then casually gives them all the will.
Volpone has set up this whole series of interactions to revel in the dramatic irony of the situation: the suitors all think he is finally dead, but really he is hiding and laughing at their expense. The suitors are all so convinced, so blinded by greed, and so certain that Mosca is nothing but a parasite, that they still do not even suspect that Mosca has tricked them or been named heir.
Volpone watches in glee as Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Lady Would-be scan the will to determine who has been named heir. They all realize it’s Mosca, and they are perplexed, enraged, and doubtful. They all question Mosca, but he keeps ignoring them, until he says that he’ll talk to them all tomorrow. Lady Would-be isn’t satisfied with that answer, so Mosca tells her that she should remember she implicitly offered him sexual favors in exchange for being named heir. He tells her to go home and be with Sir Politic, or else he’ll tell people what she did. She then exits.
The dramatic irony is palpable as the suitors search the will for what the audience (and Volpone) already knows. Mosca begins to wield the dangerous power he has crafted for himself: knowledge of the truth. One aspect of constantly acting and keeping up appearances for (and with) everyone is that Mosca has the potential to reveal what he knows is reality.
Corvino confronts Mosca, but Mosca shouts back that Corvino should have led the way out of the house. He makes fun of Corvino for being a willing cuckold, and a publically-known one, at that. Mosca says that Corvino might want to reclaim the gifts he gave Volpone, but Mosca will keep them in exchange for not revealing that Corvino tried to prostitute his wife in exchange for a fortune.
As mentioned above, one aspect of Mosca’s theatrical ruses that has not yet been explored is the fact that he has knowledge of the (often embarrassing) reality, thus allowing him to blackmail his victims like he does here with Corvino.
In an aside, Volpone expresses his delight with Mosca’s villainy. In his 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 he realizes that Mosca is the heir. Corbaccio confronts Mosca, but Mosca makes fun of him for being old and chides him for perjuring himself in court and disinheriting his son. Corbaccio exits.
Voltore reinforces the irony of the scene by thinking that Mosca is acting with everyone else but never with him. Corbaccio seems older than ever. While believing he was about to inherit the fortune made him feel twenty years younger, his deafness and infirmity are emphasized here to suggest that in being denied the fortune all the positive effects have been reversed.
Thinking himself finally alone with Mosca, Voltore praises him for being so faithful to him. Mosca ignores him, and Voltore tells him that he can stop the act since the others are gone. Mosca says he’s sorry that his luck has cost Voltore the benefits that he deserves, but Mosca reaffirms that he has been named the heir and that the will of the dead must be obeyed. He says it’s lucky that Voltore doesn’t need the fortune since he is an educated lawyer, and as long as men are wicked there will be lawsuits. Mosca says that if he ever needs a layer he’ll call upon Voltore, but in the meantime Voltore shouldn’t be jealous. Mosca thanks Voltore for the gold plate he presented Volpone at the beginning of the play, and he sends him home.
Referencing the gold plate is harsh and probably infuriates Voltore, but Mosca seems to be kinder to Voltore overall than to the others. This is possibly because Mosca respects Voltore’s language ability. It’s also, perhaps, because Mosca doesn’t have the same kind of blackmail on Voltore, since Voltore is less guilty of breaking societal rules than others. Voltore was simply the lawyer; he knew that some of Mosca’s story was false, but he didn’t know that the attempted rape really happened.
After Voltore leaves, Volpone jumps out of his hiding spot to praise and hug Mosca. He is so impressed with Mosca’s mischief that he says he wishes he could transform Mosca into a Venus. He instructs Mosca to dress up like an aristocrat in public to further torment everyone. Mosca believes that this new prank will end their ability to profit off of everyone, but Volpone believes that when he reveals that he’s still alive he can continue the scam. Volpone then decides to disguise himself to further torment those seeking his wealth. Mosca suggests dressing him up as a commendatori, and Volpone says that in disguise he’ll be a disease onto everyone.
Volpone is so pleased with Mosca that evidently, he wants to turn Mosca into a woman (a Venus) so that he can have sex with him. Volpone then gives Mosca yet another costume and role, this one extremely provocative: Mosca will subvert the social order and dress like an aristocrat. Mosca is realistic, and he knows that Volpone’s fake death and Mosca’s treatment of everyone in this scene will ruin their ability to run the old scam. Volpone, on the other hand, is influenced by greed for pleasure, avarice, and hubris, and he convinces himself that the scam can continue once his fake death has been undone.