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Home » , » Discuss Corvino's role in the play, Volpone?
Volpone, the smart career lawyer, Corbaccio, the decrepit old father, and Corvino, the jealous young husband, are the three 'birds of play' in the play. They are designed as a group. They are united by greed. Each one willingly gives up what he values most for the sake of Volpone's wealth. Within this design they are, however, quite different types and their characters are sharply distinguished. Corvino has the longest and most complex part. He differs from the other two by having something apart from his money which Volpone, the Fox wants to grab.

Corvino is a jealous young husband whose wife Celia is a sexually attractive woman, "a beauty, ripe, as harvest!" He guards her jealousy, and keeps her watched at home by spies. He chastises the mountebank for daring to speak to her. Inside his house, he severely criticises his wife for having encouraged the mountebank, and threatens to lock her up even more strictly than before as he regards her action as "death of mine honour." Yet to win Volpone's favour he urges his wife almost in the second breath to go to bad with Volpone. Later in the law-court, to ensure Volpone's acquittal for his own greedy purpose, he publicly denounces his wife as a whore and proclaims himself a cuckold.

The dramatist uses Corvino, like other clients that the strongest human obsession is greed. More than the other two, Corvino clinches the point. The most important thing in his life seems to be his honour as a husband. This, too, he sacrifices for the sake of Volpone's wealth. In Volpone's bedroom he ridicules 'honour', telling his wife hypocritically that, 

"There's no such thing in nature: a mere term Invented to awe fools."

Through the character of Corvino Jonson stresses the fact that a man is often unconscious of his hypocrisy. Despite all his wrongful acts Corvino always believes that he is a 'good Catholic, a man of conscience and scruple. In Act I he believes that he sincerely pities Volpone's miserable condition;

"Las, good gentleman! How pitiful the sight is!"

But he shouts abuse into Volpone's ear when he is assured by Mosca that Volpone cannot hear him. At Mosca's suggestion that he "could stifle" Volpone "with a pillow", Corvino is genuinely horrified, but he is willing to let Mosca do so in his absence so that he has no responsibility. He says to Mosca,  

" Do as you will, but I'll be gone."

He betrays his sadistic cruelty again in Act II when he bullies his wife to go to bed with Volpone, and once again in the law-court where he enjoys abusing Celia too much that he scandalises the court. Yet he wants Mosca to reassure him that "there is no shame in this, now, is there?"

It has been observed that "shame is a key-word in respect of Corvino." As Volpone puts it, he sings his shame aloud, like the crow in the fable. But finally he is glad that, his eyes being closed with "stinking fish! Bruis'd fruit, and rotten eggs", he will " not see" his "shame yet," when he is rowed round Venice wearing ass's ears. Corvino is ignorant of himself, of his own true nature. This is his folly, and on account of his folly he is, incapable of shame and capable of the most vicious behaviour. Thus, through Corvino the merchant Jonson shows a close relationship that exists between folly and vice.

Summing up, we have to say that Corvino's role in the play has got its own importance.


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