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Home » , » Discuss the relationship between Volpone and Mosca, emphasizing the change in their relationship and its significance.
Volpone  (the fox) is the central figure of the play. He is arch-plotter who begins the action by his plots and intrigues. He is the master of Mosca (the glad fly) who is a parasite. Mosca is only one step higher in the social scale than three deformed fools of Volpone's household: the dwarf, the hermaphrodite, and the eunuch. Mosca is socially and morally deformed.

Volpone and Mosca both are rogues. They are the partners in the business of earning money by deceiving greedy people. Each uses the other's talents and they achieve amazing successes. They are successful in fooling Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino out of their money. The first presents Volpone a large gold plate, the second a bag of gold coins, and the third a pearl and diamond. The two rogues face disaster at the end of Act III when Bonario rescues Celia, vowing to bring Volpone to Justice. But they get out of it. They are able to combine to achieve a still greater triumph in the law-court, getting Bonario and Celia convicted. Their happy relationship, however, does not go on for ever. Ultimately they turn against each other, causing destruction to both.

At the start of Act V we see Volpone and Mosca happy and congratulating each other much as they did in Act I and II. Volpone is more than satisfied with Mosca's art as a manipulator. To Volpone Mosca becomes "exquisite Mosca" Mosca also flatters his master, on his skill as an actor. Mosca declares that their trump in the law court "is our masterpiece", and that they must " rest".

We cannot think to go beyond this. But soon (a few lines later) Mosca is heard tempting his master to go further. Volpone decides for Mosca's "sake", at his "entreaty" "to vex'em all" once again. Volpone sends Nano and Castrone to spread the news that he has died, so that the "birds of prey" and the "she-woolf" will come for their reward. Mosca is named as the heir, is asked to put on a gentlemen's gown and take an inventory of his possessions.

After the scene of the clients' disappointment, Mosca clearly sees his opportunity as the heir and encourages Volpone to leave him in charge of the house. Volpone goes out into the street to tease his victims. In doing this he enjoys himself greatly, and does not suspect that his servant can deceive him. He begins to suspect Mosca only when he comes from the court to fetch Mosca and discovers that Mosca has turned Nano, Androgyno and Castrone out of the house, keeping the keys with him.

A breakdown in their relationship definitely occurs when, in the second and final scene in the law-court, Mosca, dressed as a gentleman, refuses to recognize his master and does not agree to come to terms even after Volpone's promise to share fifty per cent of his possessions with him. Here Mosca understimates Volpone. He does not understand that Volpone, who is a real gentleman, "by blood and rank a gentleman", will be too proud to be destroyed by his own servant. Faced with the prospect of a whipping and losing all he has, Volpone prefers to throw off his disguise, deciding to ruin Mosca as well as himself.

This breakdown in their relationship is surprising enough to make a strong dramatic climax, but it is not inconsistent with the earlier action. Ever since the first scene, where Mosca flatters Volpone into giving him a present, the audience, has taken Mosca to be the cleverer of the two, waiting for his opportunity. The audience has also guessed that Volpone believed that it was a gentleman's privilege to receive flattery and give presents, and that he would never let his servant take his place.

In the partnership of Volpone and Mosca as well as the partnership of Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvinio who work together to get Volpone acquitted, Jonson satirizes the capitalist society which is ruled by greed and individualism. He also suggests that neither goodness (Bonario and Celia) nor justice (the law-court) can destroy such a society. It destroyed only by itself, falling apart internally.


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