Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act I scene 5

Mosca feigns joy at seeing Corvino, telling him that Volpone is now surely dying. Corvino brought Volpone a precious pearl and a diamond, and Volpone, pretending to be half-conscious, calls on him. Mosca encourages Corvino to put these jewels in Volpone’s hands since he can’t see anymore. Mosca tells Corvino that he prepared a will in his favour yesterday – since Volpone kept on calling for Corvino constantly, Mosca prepared pen and paper, asked questions like “Who is your heir?”, “Who should be the executor?”, to which he always got the answer “Corvino”, whether Volpone meant it or not. When he was to weak to answer, Mosca interpreted all his nods in the way favourable to Corvino as well, and nobody else got a penny.

Now Volpone is so weak that he recognizes neither his servants nor his children. “What children?”, asks surprised Corvino. “He has a dozen of bastards whom he conceived with beggars, Gypsies, Jews and blacks while drunk. In fact, don’t you know that the dwarf, the fool and the eunuch who live in his house are all his bastard sons? Only I am not”, says Mosca. I guess he refers to the hermaphrodite as “the fool”. I also guess (and hope) there are tons of scholarly papers out there analysing the meaning of Volpone’s monstrous offspring. Assuming Mosca tells the truth, this trifecta of bastard children who are all sons of racially discriminated women and all are physically deformed, should provide some tasty fodder for the modern theorists of monstrosity. Mosca, to prove how far gone Volpone is, shouts some abuse at him, and Corvino, encouraged by his example, joins in. I have to admit they get quite creative, i.e. Mosca compares Volpone’s cheeks to dirty washrags, and Corvino to old smoked wall streaked with rain.

 

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