Ben Jonson

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Volpone: The Argument Summary & Analysis

This section, the opening to the play, is a very general plot summary of the play given in a clever acrostic, where the first letter of each of the seven lines in the section spells 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 name several people as inheritors of his wealth. His parasite (Mosca), meaning his servant or hanger-on, fools all the people hoping to inherit Volpone’s wealth, and weaves cross-plots which are all eventually exposed. The characters of the play try new tricks to save themselves and have some success, but in trying to take advantage of each other, everyone winds up betrayed and ruined.
The Argument introduces the main plot, as well as the main themes of the play. The form of the acrostic itself stresses the playwright’s skill with language and it foreshadows the way language will be valued in the play. The acrostic also introduces from the onset the play’s moral goal—Jonson tells us immediately that the characters will be blinded by greed and thus precipitate their own ruin.
Theatre and Appearance vs Reality Theme Icon
Money and Commerce Theme Icon
Greed and Corruption Theme Icon
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