David Bruce: Ben Jonson’s VOLPONE: A Retelling — Act 5, Scenes 5-6

— 5.5 —

Just outside Volpone’s house, Volpone and Mosca were talking. Mosca was wearing the clothing of a clarrissimo, aka Venetian gentleman. Volpone was wearing the uniform of a police officer.

Volpone asked, “Do I look like the police officer?”

“Oh, sir, you are he,” Mosca said. “No man can tell the difference between you.”

“Good,” Volpone said.

“But what do I look like?” Mosca asked.

“Before Heaven, I say that you look like a brave clarissimo. You finely suit that suit of fine clothing! It’s a pity that you weren’t born a clarissimo.”

Mosca thought, If I can hold on to my artificial position of clarissimo, it will go well for me.

Volpone said, “I’ll go and see first what the news is at the court.”

Mosca said, “Do so.”

Volpone exited.

Alone, Mosca said, “My fox is out of his hole, and before he shall re-enter it, I’ll make him languish in his borrowed disguise until he comes to terms with me.”

He called, “Androgyno, Castrone, Nano!”

The three servants entered and said, “Here!”

Mosca said, “Go and entertain yourselves outside; go and have fun.”

They exited.

Alone, Mosca said, “So, now I have the keys, and I am possessed.”

He meant that he was in possession of the house. Readers may be forgiven if they thought he was possessed by a demon of Hell.

He continued, “Since Volpone wants to be dead before his time, I’ll bury him or gain by him. I am his heir, and so I will continue to be, until he at least shares his wealth with me. To cheat him out of everything he has would be only a well-deserved con: No man would call it a sin. Let the entertainment he gets out of conning others pay for his being conned; this is called the Fox-trap.”

Let’s think about this.

According to Mosca, to cheat Corbaccio and Corvino out of everything they have would be only a well-deserved con: No man would call it a sin.

It’s not true. By cheating Corbaccio, Volpone is also cheating Bonario, Corbaccio’s innocent son. By cheating Corvino, Volpone is also cheating Celia, Corvino’s innocent wife.

Even in the case of Mosca’s cheating Voltore, cheating him is still a sin and a crime.

— 5.6 —

Corbaccio and Corvino talked on a Venetian street.

Corbaccio said, “They say that the court is set. It is ready to begin.”

Corvino said, “We must continue to maintain the tale we told at the first court session, for both our reputations.”

He meant that they needed to continue to tell the falsehoods they had earlier told. In Corvino’s case, he needed to continue to lie that his wife had cuckolded him.

Corbaccio said, “Why, mine’s no tale: My son would there have killed me.”

He was telling only part of the truth — or at least part of what he believed to be the truth. When he had made Volpone his heir, his son had not even been suspected of anything evil. Of course, his son had had no intention of murdering him.

“That’s true, I had forgotten —” Corvino said.

He thought, My testimony is a tale — a lie — I am sure.

He continued, “But as for your will, sir.”

“Yes, I’ll make a demand upon Mosca for that hereafter, now that his patron, Volpone, is dead.”

Mosca still had the will that Corbaccio had made that listed Volpone as his heir.

Volpone, disguised as a police officer, entered the scene. His purpose was to torment the two legacy-hunters with their failure to inherit his wealth.

“Signior Corvino! And Corbaccio!” he called.

He said to Corbaccio, “Sir, much joy to you.”

Corvino asked, “Much joy from what?”

“The sudden good that has dropped down upon you,” the disguised Volpone answered.

“Where?” Corbaccio asked.

“None knows how, but it came from old Volpone, sir,” the disguised Volpone said.

“Go away, arrant knave!” Corbaccio said.

“Don’t allow your too much wealth, sir, to make you furious,” the disguised Volpone said.

“Go away, you varlet!” Corbaccio said.

“Why, sir?” the disguised Volpone asked.

“Do you mock me?” Corbaccio asked.

“You mock everyone in the entire world, sir,” the disguised Volpone said. “Didn’t you and Volpone make each other your heir?”

Corbaccio said, “Out, harlot!”

The disguised Volpone said, “Oh, if Corbaccio didn’t inherit Volpone’s wealth, then probably you are the man, Signior Corvino. Indeed, you carry your new wealth well; you haven’t grown insane because of your new riches. I love your spirit: You haven’t swollen up like bread with too much yeast because of your fortune. Some people would swell now like a wine-vat with such an autumn harvest of grapes, which is a metaphor for your new riches. Did he give you everything, sir?”

“Get lost, you rascal!” Corvino said.

“Truly, your wife has shown that she is every inch a woman by committing adultery, but you are well and you need not care because you have a good estate to bear the burden of being a cuckold, sir, and your estate is made much, much better by Volpone’s death — unless Corbaccio has a share.”

“Go away, varlet,” Corbaccio said.

“You will not acknowledge that you are the heir, sir,” the disguised Volpone said. “Why, that is wise. Thus do all gamblers, at all games, mislead other people. No man wants to appear as if he has won.”

Corvino and Corbaccio exited.

Seeing Voltore coming toward him, the disguised Volpone said, “Here comes my vulture, heaving his beak up in the air, and snuffing.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved











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