Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act I scene 4

The next guest is Corbaccio and the source of rather savage humour in this scene is that Corbaccio is actually older than Volpone and still hopes to outlive him. He is also half-deaf and keeps on asking Mosca to repeat what he’s said. Mosca says Volpone has troubles sleeping and Corbaccio presses him to accept an opium mixture from his personal apothecary, whose preparation he watched over personally. Mosca knowing full well what the effects of such medicine would be, does not accept it, saying that Volpone does not believe in physicians and their medicines. Corbaccio rather agrees with him, saying that physicians kill people with about as much license as a judge, and Mosca says they are even worse, because the judge can kill only those whom the law condemns, and doctors can kill the judge too. Mosca than rattles off the whole list of Volpone’s symptoms, all of which indicate he is at death’s door, and Corbaccio responds to each of them with the enthusiastic exclamation “Good!” He then asks Mosca whether Volpone has made his will yet, and Mosca answers he didn’t. So what was Voltore doing at his home? Mosca answers he probably came because he smelled carcass.

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