Volpone: introduction

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  • Volpone: introduction
    • Jonson a classicist, introducing into English the ideals and techniques of classical drama
      • Volpone increased Jonson's success: Works (1616) was granted annual pension by King James
        • Even when he died his opinions and example dominated the literary scene for over a century and a half
          • 1607 edition of Volpone reiterates the classical arguments made in Every Man in His Humour: to reform behaviour by ridiculing general weaknesses of human behaviour
            • T.S Elliot: "to evaluate Jonson solely by his own classical criteria is to him less justice as a theatre artist"
              • Volpone's debt to medieval taste of animal symbolism: fox acting dead to trap predatory birds (fact)
    • Peregrine torments Sir Pol maliciously which left sympathy for the foolish, Sir Pol
      • Parallelism between the epic and play when Volpone adopts disguise of Scoto of Mantua in order to woo Celia at her window
    • Volpone bursting into song receives criticism
    • Jacobean audience expected to grasp irony of Volpone's carelessness about the Avocatori's savage condemnation as he speaks in the Epilogue
    • Commedia Dell'arte: Italian form of improvised farce, particularly associated with Venice
      • Imaginative context is the myth of Golden Age: Volpone's reference to 'that age which [poets] would have best'
    • The metal gold not supposed to exist in Golden Age but Volpone puts it at the centre of his universe
      • Character of Volpone largely determines Nano, Castrone and Androgyno
      • Alternative interpretation of Volpone: he stresses his aristocratic superiority and explains his mischief-making as being motivated by boredom
      • Volpone has been played since 1606 except for a 136 gap year period after 1786, during the periods of sentimental comedy and Victorian morality
    • Volpone's household is a parody of a family- Mosca as a 'mistress' and three freaks as 'children'
    • Voltore has no marriage or blood ties to betray but betrays his profession  as a lawyer and also his wider community
    • 'Would-be' subplot: Jonson interprets the unity of action as 'being composed of many parts..begins to be one as those parts grow or are wrought together'
    • Disadvantage of the neoclassical approach to Volpone: it encourages us to appreciate the play only as literature than a theatre performance

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