Volpone

Volpone Character Analysis

Volpone is the play’s central figure. He is an old, rich, childless Italian gentleman with no heir his fortune, and he values wealth above all else. His name means sly fox, which is a perfect allegory for his character, since he spends the entire play joyfully deceiving Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino into believing that each one will be the sole heir to his fortune, all the while becoming wealthier through them. He is extremely greedy, and he takes immense pleasure in fooling the other Italian men. While Volpone’s pursuits begin as comedic and light-hearted, they eventually progress to the extreme when Volpone attempts to rape Corvino’s wife, Celia. Though he makes fun of the others for their excessive greed, and though he gets away with many of his tricks, Volpone ultimately proves insatiably greedy for pleasure and trickery. Instead of quitting while he is ahead, Volpone fakes his death, creating a chaos in which he is ultimately discovered, stripped of his wealth, and effectively sentenced to execution.

Volpone Quotes in Volpone

The Volpone quotes below are all either spoken by Volpone or refer to Volpone. 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of Volpone published in 2004.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Dear saint,
Riches, the dumb god, that giv’st all men tongues,
That canst do nought, and yet mak’st men do all things;
The price of souls; even hell, with thee to boot,
Is made worth heaven. Thou art virtue, fame,
Honour, and all things else. Who can get thee,
He shall be noble, valiant, honest, wise.

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold and Alchemy
Page Number: 1.1.21-27
Explanation and Analysis:
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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
Page Number: 1.4.71-72
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

The weeping of an heir should still be laughter
Under a visor.

Related Characters: Mosca (speaker), Volpone, Corvino
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 1.5.22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
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O, sir, the wonder,
The blazing star of Italy! a wench
Of the first year, a beauty ripe as harvest!
Whose skin is whiter than a swan all over,
Than silver, snow, or lilies; a soft lip,
Would tempt you to eternity of kissing!
And flesh that melteth in the touch to blood!
Bright as your gold, and lovely as your gold!

Related Characters: Mosca (speaker), Volpone, Corvino, Celia
Related Symbols: Gold and Alchemy
Page Number: 1.5.108-114
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

I rather pity their folly and indiscretion, than their loss of time and money; for those may be recover'd by industry: but to be a fool born, is a disease incurable.

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker)
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 2.2.159-162
Explanation and Analysis:
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Why, the whole world is but as an empire, that empire as a province, that province as a bank, that bank as a private purse to the purchase of it.

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker), Corvino, Celia
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 2.2.234-236
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

First, I will have this bawdy light damm'd up;
And till 't be done, some two or three yards off,
I'll chalk a line; o'er which if thou but chance
To set thy desp'rate foot, more hell, more honor,
More wild remorseless rage shall seize on thee,
Than on a conjuror that had heedless left
His circle's safety ere his devil was laid.

Related Characters: Corvino (speaker), Volpone, Celia
Page Number: 2.5.50-56
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 4 Quotes

Before I feign'd diseases, now I have one.

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker), Lady Would-be
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 3.4.62
Explanation and Analysis:
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I have a little studied physic; but now
I'm all for music, save, i' the forenoons,
An hour or two for painting. I would have
A lady, indeed, to have all letters and art,
Be able to discourse, to write, to paint,
But principal, as Plato holds, your music,
And so does wise Pythagoras, I take it,
Is your true rapture: when there is concent
In face, in voice, and clothes: and is, indeed,
Our sex's chiefest ornament.

Related Characters: Lady Would-be (speaker), Volpone
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 3.4.67-76
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Honour! Tut, a breath:
There's no such thing in nature; a mere term
Invented to awe fools. What is my gold
The worse for touching, clothes for being look'd on?

Related Characters: Corvino (speaker), Volpone, Celia
Related Symbols: Gold and Alchemy
Page Number: 3.7.38-41
Explanation and Analysis:
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O God, and his good angels! whither, whither,
Is shame fled human breast? that with such ease,
Men dare put off your honours, and their own?
Is that, which ever was a cause of life,
Now plac'd beneath the basest circumstance,
And modesty an exile made, for money?

Related Characters: Celia (speaker), Volpone, Corvino
Page Number: 3.7.133-138
Explanation and Analysis:
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Good sir, these things might move a mind affected
With such delight; but I, whose innocence
Is all I can think wealthy, or worth th' enjoying,
And which, once lost, I have nought to lose beyond it,
Cannot be taken with these sensual baits.

Related Characters: Celia (speaker), Volpone, Corvino
Page Number: 3.7.205-208
Explanation and Analysis:
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If you have ear that will be pierc'd - or eyes
That can be open'd-a heart that may be touch'd-
Or any part that yet sounds man about you –
If you have touch of holy saints: or heaven-
Do me the grace to let me scape: - if not,
Be bountiful and kill me. You do know,
I am a creature, hither ill betray'd,
By one whose shame I would forget it were:
If you will deign me neither of these graces,
Yet feed your wrath, sir, rather than your lust
(It is a vice comes nearer manliness,)
And punish that unhappy crime of nature,
Which you miscall my beauty.

Related Characters: Celia (speaker), Volpone, Corvino, Lady Would-be
Page Number: 3.7.239-251
Explanation and Analysis:
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Fall on me, roof, and bury me in ruin!
Become my grave, that wert my shelter! O!
I am unmask'd, unspirited, undone,
Betray'd to beggary, to infamy—

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker), Bonario, Celia
Page Number: 3.7.275-278
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

I would I could forget I were a creature.

Related Characters: Celia (speaker), Volpone, Voltore, Bonario, Corvino, Avocatori
Page Number: 4.5.102
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 4, Scene 6 Quotes

I will conclude with this,
That vicious persons, when they're hot and flesh'd
In impious acts, their constancy abounds:
Damn'd deeds are done with greatest confidence.

Related Characters: Voltore (speaker), Volpone, Mosca, Bonario, Celia
Page Number: 4.6.50-53
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

So, now I have the keys, and am possest.
Since he will needs be dead afore his time,
I'll bury him, or gain by 'm: I'm his heir,
And so will keep me, till he share at least.
To cozen him of all, were but a cheat
Well plac'd; no man would construe it a sin:
Let his sport pay for't. This is call'd the Fox-trap.

Related Characters: Mosca (speaker), Volpone
Page Number: 5.5.11-17
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 5, Scene 11 Quotes

To make a snare for mine own neck! and run
My head into it, wilfully! with laughter!
When I had newly scap'd, was free and clear
Out of mere wantonness! O, the dull devil
Was in this brain of mine when I devis'd it,
And Mosca gave it second; he must now
Help to sear up this vein, or we bleed dead.

Related Characters: Volpone (speaker), Mosca
Related Symbols: Disease and Medicine
Page Number: 5.11.1-7
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Volpone Character Timeline in Volpone

The timeline below shows where the character Volpone appears in Volpone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Argument
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...out the play’s title, V O L P O N E. The acrostic explains that Volpone is wealthy and childless, and that he pretends to be sick and has offered to... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
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In Volpone’s home in Venice, Italy, the wealthy Volpone greets the day and his gold, and he... (full context)
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Volpone continues, saying that the poets were right to call the best age in history the... (full context)
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Still speaking to his “dear saint,” Volpone says that riches are the silent god that gives men the ability to speak, that... (full context)
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Mosca cuts off Volpone by agreeing, and he says that riches are better than wisdom. Volpone agrees, but says... (full context)
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Mosca continues, saying that Volpone also doesn’t take the wealth of other heirs, like many do, by tearing fathers away... (full context)
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Volpone pays Mosca and says that Mosca is right in everything he says. Those who call... (full context)
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...in gifts and undermining each other, all the while trying to seem like they love Volpone. Volpone endures all of this, toying with their hope of inheriting his money so that... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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Mosca re-enters the room in Volpone’s house, bringing with him Nano (the dwarf), Androgyno (the hermaphrodite), and Castrone (the eunuch) as... (full context)
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At the end of the performance, Volpone applauds and asks Mosca if he wrote the script for the show. Mosca confirms that... (full context)
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Outside, someone knocks on the door, and Volpone ends the song and tells Nano, Castrone, and Androgyno to exit. Mosca tells Volpone that... (full context)
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Mosca reenters the room, and Volpone immediately asks what gifts Voltore brought. Mosca responds that Voltore brought a large, antique gold... (full context)
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Mosca helps Volpone complete his disguise by applying ointment to Volpone’s eyes. Before leaving to bring in Voltore,... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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Carrying the gold platter and ushered by Mosca, Voltore enters the room where Volpone is lying in bed pretending to be rife with disease. Mosca whispers that only Voltore,... (full context)
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Since Volpone is speaking to Mosca so quietly, Voltore has a difficult time hearing him. Mosca repeats... (full context)
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Volpone tells Voltore that he is too kind, and Voltore responds that he wishes he could... (full context)
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Mosca uses Volpone’s false fainting to usher Voltore out. Voltore wants to know if he is officially, legally... (full context)
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...Mosca says it’s simply because Voltore deserves it, and he goes on to say that Volpone likes Voltore and admires lawyers in general for their ability to speak so well about... (full context)
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...Mosca ushers Voltore out. Mosca also reminds Voltore that he wants to be hired after Volpone dies. As soon as Voltore exits, Volpone springs out of bed and praises Mosca for... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
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Corbaccio enters the room, and Mosca greets him. Corbaccio then asks how Volpone is doing, and when Mosca says Volpone is doing worse, Corbaccio responds by saying it’s... (full context)
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Volpone though, according to Mosca, is not interested in medicine. Corbaccio becomes defensive, saying that he... (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 doctors are even more dangerous... (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... (full context)
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Corbaccio agrees that a doctor can kill anyone, then he changes the subject back to Volpone’s health. Corbaccio asks about Volpone’s apoplexy, which Mosca says is “violent;” he says Volpone struggles... (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... (full context)
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...the adage that gold can be felt, if not drunk. They talk about potentially healing Volpone, at which point Corbaccio attempts to take his money back. Mosca, though, tells him not... (full context)
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...agrees to leave the bag of gold, Mosca encourages him to run home to name Volpone heir to Corbaccio’s fortune. Corbaccio is confused, since he doesn’t want to disinherit his son.... (full context)
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...Mosca essentially says that he is swindling Corbaccio, Corbaccio says that he’s certain to outlive Volpone and that he doesn’t doubt Mosca at all. (full context)
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Once Corbaccio is gone, Volpone jumps out of bed again and says he almost burst from laughter. Mosca tells him... (full context)
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At the end of Volpone’s speech on age, someone else knocks. Mosca tells Volpone to go back to pretending to... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
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Corvino enters as Mosca attends to Volpone, who is pretending to be deathly ill. Mosca greets Corvino, and he says that Volpone... (full context)
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After Corvino gives Volpone the pearl, Mosca says that Volpone can’t understand them, since his disease has caused him... (full context)
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Upon hearing Mosca’s trick, Corvino hugs him and asks if Volpone really is not aware of them. After Mosca assures Corvino that Volpone is blind and... (full context)
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Corvino asks again if Mosca is sure that Volpone cannot hear them, so Mosca shouts in Volpone’s ear that he hopes Volpone’s disease gets... (full context)
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Volpone leaps up again and tells Mosca that he has outdone himself. Someone else knocks, but... (full context)
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Volpone says he’ll meet Lady Would-be after he is drunk, and then he’ll wonder at the... (full context)
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Volpone asks how he didn’t know about this beauty before, and Mosca explains that he only... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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Volpone enters the square dressed as a mountebank and followed by a crowd of people. Sir... (full context)
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Volpone continues, saying that the other mountebanks are terrible, and that they’ll kill twenty people a... (full context)
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Volpone next claims that he and his six servants can’t make the elixir fast enough for... (full context)
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Volpone says that when they become sick, they can try to apply gold to the affected... (full context)
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Sir Politic asks Peregrine what he thinks of Volpone and his language, to which Peregrine responds he hasn’t heard anything like it other than... (full context)
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Volpone begins another dense, ostentatious rant, saying that if he had time he could list the... (full context)
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Volpone says that from his youth he has sought out the rarest secrets and spared no... (full context)
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...another song encouraging the crowd to purchase the elixir, naming several ailments it will fix. Volpone says he is in a good mood and will therefore lower the price in an... (full context)
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...throw a handkerchief, but from her window above, Celia, Corvino’s wife, throws down a handkerchief. Volpone thanks her and says he’ll give her something even better than his elixir – a... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Corvino enters the square outside his home where Volpone (in disguise) has been selling an elixir to a large crowd of people. Celia has... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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In Volpone’s house, Volpone tells Mosca that he is wounded. Mosca asks what he means, and Volpone... (full context)
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Volpone wonders if he has any hope, and Mosca says that it is at least possible... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
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In Corvino’s house Corvino greets Mosca and guesses that Volpone has died. Mosca says that the news is the contrary: Volpone is recovering. Corvino curses... (full context)
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...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 by massaging him with it. Mosca says... (full context)
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Mosca says his unfortunate task is to find a woman for Volpone, and that he has come to Corvino for advice because he doesn’t want to do... (full context)
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...idea, since they are so subtle and tricky and therefore might cheat everyone out of Volpone’s fortune. Mosca says it needs to be a simple woman without tricks, someone who will... (full context)
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...fathers. Corvino decides that he will prevent the doctor by offering his own wife to Volpone. Mosca says that he didn’t want to say it, but that he thought about suggesting... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...business concerns Bonario, and though it might seem like he is doing a disservice to Volpone, he will still reveal a secret because he thinks it’s the right thing to do.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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In Volpone’s house, Volpone says to Nano, Androgyno, and Castrone that he thinks Mosca is taking too... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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Lady Would-be and Nano enter the room where Volpone lies pretending to be sick. Lady Would-Be tells Nano to inform Volpone that she has... (full context)
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...can’t dress herself. She then instructs Nano to entertain the servants, and she goes towards Volpone, at which point he says in an aside, “the storm comes toward me.” (full context)
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Lady Would-be asks Volpone how he has slept, and he responds that he can’t sleep because he dreamed of... (full context)
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Volpone asks Lady Would-be to drink and leave, but that only starts her talking about a... (full context)
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Volpone responds by saying that an old poet wrote that the best quality of women is... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
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Mosca enters the room in the house where Lady Would-be is talking to Volpone. Volpone tells Mosca to get rid of Lady Would-be, who has been torturing him with... (full context)
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Lady Would-be runs off with Nano to look for her husband, and Volpone praises Mosca for his “quick fiction” which got rid of Lady Would-be. Mosca says that... (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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
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Corvino and Celia enter the room where Volpone is lying in bed and Bonario is hiding. Mosca intercepts Corvino and Celia, saying they... (full context)
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...there is no going back now, and that since he ordered her to sleep with Volpone, she has to do it. Celia begs him not to give this strange test, and... (full context)
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Celia then begs Corvino to be jealous and to act like her sleeping with Volpone is a sin, but he says that if he thought it was a sin he... (full context)
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Corvino instructs Celia to go to Volpone and threats to hit her if she disobeys. Celia says that she would rather die... (full context)
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Volpone then jumps out of bed and says Corvino has never “tasted the true love of... (full context)
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Celia protests, but Volpone keeps talking. He says that she shouldn’t let the fact he was bedridden make her... (full context)
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Volpone asks Celia why she is sad, since she has found a worthy lover to replace... (full context)
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Volpone says if she has wisdom, she will listen to him. He offers all of the... (full context)
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Volpone then attempts another song to seduce Celia, but she cuts him off and begs him... (full context)
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Volpone responds in anger, and tells her to yield or else he’ll force her. Celia cries... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 8
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Mosca enters the room where Volpone has just tried to rape Celia. Volpone notes that Mosca is bleeding, and Mosca says... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 9
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...to disinherit him, and so he hurt Mosca and promised he would kill Corbaccio and Volpone. Corbaccio exclaims that he will disinherit Bonario because of what he has done. As they... (full context)
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Corbaccio then asks Mosca how Volpone is doing and if he will die soon. Mosca says that he’s afraid Volpone will... (full context)
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...pretending to work for Corbaccio for Voltore’s benefit, saying that he convinced Corbaccio to name Volpone heir so that Voltore would inherit an even greater fortune when Volpone dies. He explains... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
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...before, noting that both Celia and Bonario have good names, and that Corbaccio, Corvino, and Volpone all have done terrible things. They wonder why Volpone isn’t present, and Mosca says that... (full context)
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When the Avocatori ask who Mosca is, Bonario says that Mosca is Volpone’s parasite. Bonario asks the court to force Volpone to appear. Despite an objection from Voltore,... (full context)
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...interjections by the surprised Avocatori, Voltore continues 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... (full context)
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...them that he received his wound from Bonario, who he says instructed Celia to accuse Volpone of rape. The Avocatori begin to doubt Celia, saying that she “has too many moods.”... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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Volpone then enters, pretending to be diseased and disabled. Voltore says that he will offer testimony... (full context)
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...people will blame Celia instead of him. Corvino is still suspicious of Voltore competing for Volpone’s wealth, but Mosca reassures Corvino and he exits. Corbaccio tells Mosca to go make Volpone’s... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Volpone returns home after the court scene, attended by servants. He monologues, saying that the crisis... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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Mosca enters the room where Volpone has been drinking. He asks Volpone how he is doing, and if they are free... (full context)
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Mosca tells Volpone that he thinks they should quit while they are ahead and stop their ruses, since... (full context)
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...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 responds that he struggled... (full context)
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Volpone agrees with Mosca that Voltore was excellent, but Volpone says he can’t pay Voltore yet.... (full context)
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Mosca asks Volpone what he should say if people ask to see Volpone’s body, and Volpone responds that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Voltore enters Volpone’s house and asks Mosca what is going on, but Mosca ignores him and speaks out... (full context)
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Volpone watches in glee as Voltore, Corbaccio, Corvino, and Lady Would-be scan the will to determine... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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In an aside, Volpone expresses his delight with Mosca’s villainy. In his own aside, Voltore says he believes Mosca... (full context)
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After Voltore leaves, Volpone jumps out of his hiding spot to praise and hug Mosca. He is so impressed... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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In Volpone’s house, Mosca is dressed like an aristocrat while Volpone has assumed the disguise of a... (full context)
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Alone in Volpone’s home, Mosca says that the “fox is out of his hole,” and he plans to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
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...in the street, agreeing that they need to maintain the stories they told in court. Volpone enters in disguise, and he merrily greets Corvino and Corbaccio, pretending that he thinks they... (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... (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 everyone who wants to inherit his fortune.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 9
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...the worse. Mosca tells Voltore not to speak so unsuitably and un-lawyerly, and then exits. Volpone asks Voltore if he should have attacked Mosca, and Voltore recognizes Volpone as the man... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 10
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...all enter the courtroom. They note that Voltore is missing, but he soon enters with Volpone. While Volpone, Corbaccio, and Corvino all make confused asides to themselves, Voltore apologizes to the... (full context)
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...conscience is making him tell the truth. He then says that Mosca was behind everything. Volpone, still disguised, offers to go bring Mosca to court. Corvino says that Voltore is confused... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 11
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Volpone enters alone on a different part of the stage, though the courtroom remains visible. He... (full context)
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Nano, Androgyno, and Castrone enter, and Volpone asks them who told them to leave his estate. Nano reports that Mosca told them... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 12
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...and Bonario. Voltore’s story concedes that Bonario was wronged and that Celia was forced to Volpone’s home by Corvino, but Voltore denies the attempted rape because he believes that Volpone is... (full context)
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Volpone enters, still disguised as an officer, and says that Mosca will arrive soon. When Voltore... (full context)
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...Voltore says that everything he wrote is false, and that Mosca is as innocent as Volpone, who Voltore now says is still alive. The Avocatori, Corvino, and Corbaccio are all shocked... (full context)
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Mosca then enters, and one of the Avocatori comments in an aside that if Volpone is really dead, he will set Mosca up with his daughter. Aside, Volpone tells Mosca... (full context)
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Mosca acts as though Volpone, who is dressed as an officer, is annoying him, and the court orders that Volpone... (full context)
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...could not let such gross crimes be hid.” The Avocatori, disgusted with the way that Volpone and the suitors have been acting, strip Mosca of his aristocratic clothing and begin giving... (full context)
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Volpone then steps forward to deliver the epilogue. He says that though he has been punished... (full context)