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Home » , » Comment upon the dramatic significance of the opening scene of Volpone?
Some editions of Volpone treat, not unjustifiably the entire first act as the first scene. Others divide it in three scenes. Of these the first scene, the really opening scene, comprises three parts: first Volpone's hymn to his gold; second a conversation between Volpone and Mosca; and third Volpone's disclosure to the audience about his method of getting rich.

Since the function of the first act is to make the audience familiar with the situation from which the later action will develop, the first scene does well to show us

(i) Volpone himself and his religion,
(ii) his household, and
(iii) the essential relationship between Volpone, and Mosca.

Thus the first scene fulfills its aim as part of exposition of the plot.

Next, this scene introduces the main theme of the play, and that too, in its very first line. "Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!" The play pictures a vicious society which worships Mammon, the god of greed, of wealth. This scene prepares us for it by first showing us Volpone who calls his treasure-chest a "shrine" and his gold a "saint". He hails gold as not only his soul but "the world's soul", implying that his love-of-gold religion is not just personal but universal. He shows no respect for the Christian belief that spirit is higher than matter. His priorities are those which people really follow, and not those which they just profess. What men actually do interests him more than what they should do? People value money above personal relationships. This is suggested here in the opening scene and this is what the whole play is about.The scene throws light on a special characteristic of Volpone's conduct. He is not an ordinary miser. He takes less delight in being rich than in finding clever ways of becoming rich:
I glory More in the cunning purchase of my wealth,Than in the glad possession,
When he says, "I gain no common way" he expresses his desire to be exceptional and to avoid everything "common", which is the mark of Renaissance nobleman.One thing more: He is vain and himself susceptible to being deceived. That Mosca can manipulate him by flattery into giving him a present foreshadows how he will be duped by Mosca in Act V. This scene prepares us as to how we should look at Mosca. It provides us with an insight into his flattery of his master: it is insincere, ironic. He says that Volpone's "sweet nature" stops him from lending money to "fathers of poor families" and imprisoning them when they can't pay. What he really means is that Volpone avoids such people because they have nothing to offer him. Similarly Mosca pretends that Volpone knows how to use his wealth, and that he is not afraid to be generous, he is insincere and yet he succeeds in obtaining a present from his master. This shows us from the start that Mosca is the cleverer of the two.

The scene ends with Volpone's soliloquy after Mosca is sent to summon Nano, Castrone and Hermaphrodite. The soliloquy brings out Volpone's own greed for pleasure: -
What should I do, But cocker up my genius and live free To all delights my fortune calls me to?
But his pleasure lies in exploiting the cruder greed of his clients.He presents himself as a deceiptful tempter
Letting the cherry knock against their lips, And draw it by their mouths, and back again.
The opening scene makes it clear that though the themes of the greed and temptation are very serious, Jonson means to present them in a deceptively amusing way.


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