Ben Jonson – “Volpone” Act IV scene 6

Lady Would-Be enters and immediately identifies Celia as the harlot hanging out with her husband – even though she hasn’t actually seen her (remember, in the previous scene she laid into Peregrine until Mosca corrected her). Then Volpone is carried on a litter, Lady Would-Be embraces him and Voltore has another speech, stating ironically “do you really think this half-dead man looks like an active womanizer?” Bonario does try to suggest Volpone should be “proved”, that is tested, but Voltore, interpreting “proving” as “torture” (investigation and torture were pretty much one and the same thing in these times), says “sure, stretching him on a rack is really going to improve his gout, but don’t worry, even after that he still has enough diseases to kill him”. Then he says that if the court acquits Bonario and Celia, nobody in Venice will be secure against slander and false witnesses anymore, which is particularly ironic, taking into account that’s precisely what both of them are falling victims to right now. The court sends Bonario and Celia separately to prison, and the lawyers exclaim piously about the extraordinarily shocking nature of the case. I thought seasoned lawyers are not as easily shocked as that.

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