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A good title should be apt and suggestive. It should indicate the theme of the play, just as the sign-board indicates the contents of a shop--the goods that are sold in it. Considered from this point of view, the title of the present play is quite apt and proper.

The Two Foxes: Their Mortification

Volpone, a grandee of Venice, is the central figure in the play. He is cunning like the Fox. No doubt, " his parasite or hanger on". Mosca, is also very cunning, but he uses his cunning in the service of his master Volpone. It is only in the end that he tries to double-cross his master. It is only in the end that he tries to double-cross his master. But here, too, he is defeated by Volpone who boldly throws off the mask he has so far worn and declares the truth. This action of his spells out his own ruin and sends his parasite Mosca to a much more terrible doom than his own. Thus in the end the Fox is 'mortified", and both the foxes-the master and the man-come to a bad end. Nemesis overtakes both the foxes in the end.

Volpone: The Central Figure

Volpone, or the fox, is the central figure in the play, and it is rightly named after him. No doubt Mosca is even more inventive and quick-witted, a fox even more cunning, but whatever he does is done for the sake of his master. It is Volpone who gives out that he is sick, and that he is about to die. As a consequence, there hover round him a number of legacy-hunters, bringing costly presents for him, and doing their best to win his favour and thus become his sole heirs. One of them Corbaccio, is ready to disinherit his son for the sake of his wealth, and another, Corvino, is ready to sacrifice the honour of his wife, for the same purpose.Volpone occupies the central place in the drama. Barring a few scenes--those concerned with the Sir Politick-Lady-Politick Peregrine sub-plot--he makes his appearance in practically every other scene of the play. His shadow hangs even over the subplot, for Lady Politick also is one of the legacy-hunters. She bores him with her garrulity, and she offers her body to Mosca if she is made the sole heir of Volpone. The two powerful trial scenes are concerned with him. In the first, he is ably defended by Voltore, in the second nemesis overtakes him, he is exposed and awarded a punishment which he well-deserves. As he himself puts it, "it is the mortifying of a fox."
Volpone: The Central Figure

A Monster of Cunning

As one critic puts it, "Volpone, a foxy miser and sensualist, works on the greed of his acquaintances and, by false reports of his sickness and death, excites their hopes of inheriting his fortune, and lures them into all kinds of abominable knavery." A shameless lawyer, a father who disinherits his son in order to satisfy his own greed, and a willing cuckold who offers his wife in return for an inheritance, are the chief dupes. The play has little mirth; but it is a vigorous exposure of greed and iniquity. Its purpose is not amusement but satire, its subject, not folly but vice, its protagonist not the managing servant but his master, a monster of cunning and villainy. Utterly bad men are common in Elizabethan tragedy, and are found, occasionally, in comedy. But nowhere else, unless in lago, has cunning been drawn with such fullness of detail and yet with such consistency as in Volpone. "No tragic elevation lends majesty to the theme. The play depicts human meanness, unrelieved by any greatness of purpose or unselfishness of passion. It presents men as beasts, with the greed of swine, the craft of foxes, and the rapacity of wolves."

In short, the title of the play is apt and suggestive, for it refers to the central figure in the play and also gives us an indication of its central theme.

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