Ben Jonson

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Volpone: Act 5, Scene 8 Summary & Analysis

Corbaccio and Corvino reenter the street, where Volpone is still in disguise, in order to taunt everyone who wants to inherit his fortune. Mosca passes by dressed like an aristocrat, and Corvino and Corbaccio are furious. Volpone asks them if what he’s heard about Mosca is true, and says that he’s sad that a wise old man like Corbaccio could fall prey to a swindling parasite like Mosca. Volpone also says that Mosca seems to carry himself like an aristocrat. He then tells Corvino that he thought such an experienced merchant would not have dropped his cheese “to let the Fox laugh at your emptiness.” Corvino threatens Volpone and says he’d become violent if it wasn’t forbidden near the court. Volpone makes a joke about Corvino being a cuckold. Mosca reenters, and Corvino and Corbaccio decide to leave because they don’t want to be around Mosca. Volpone tells Mosca to deal with Voltore next.
Volpone’s reference to Corvino dropping his cheese while the fox laughs echoes a reference to Aesop’s Fables Volpone made earlier in the play. On one hand, this line simply reinforces the play’s animal fable influence. But at the same time, it also shows the Volpone is aware of this connection. Volpone also uses the line about “the Fox” to further taunt Corvino and Corbaccio, since his name means Fox. He’s thus able to dangle the truth in front of them and admit that he’s the one manipulating them while taking pleasure in the fact that the still don’t see the truth. Corvino is deterred from violence by the law, once again suggesting that the reason he didn’t kill Volpone earlier in the play was legal, not moral.
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