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Volpone: Ben Jonson's play, Volpone as a satirical comedy

Volpone: Ben Jonson's play, Volpone as a satirical comedy

Volpone: Ben Jonson's play, Volpone as a satirical comedy

Q. Discuss Ben Jonson's play, Volpone as a satirical comedy.

Answer: "Volpone" by Ben Jonson is widely regarded as one of the greatest satirical comedies in English literature. Through its clever wordplay, exaggerated characters, and biting social commentary, the play effectively employs satire to critique and expose the vices and follies of society.

One of the key elements that make "Volpone" a satirical comedy is its use of humor and wit to expose the absurdity and flaws of human behavior. Jonson employs verbal irony, puns, double entendre, and wordplay to create comedic effects and satirical commentary. The play is filled with witty dialogue and sharp repartee, allowing the audience to both laugh at and reflect on the characters' actions and motivations.

The central satirical target of "Volpone" is the pervasive greed and materialism that permeate society. The character of Volpone himself embodies this theme, as he cunningly feigns illness to deceive others and accumulate wealth. His exaggerated greed becomes a source of humor, as he revels in his own manipulations and delights in the power he holds over those who seek his favor. Volpone's insatiable desire for money and possessions serves as a satirical critique of the corrosive effects of greed on human nature.

In addition to Volpone, the play features a cast of exaggerated and morally flawed characters who represent various facets of society. Characters like Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino are driven by their own avarice, willing to engage in deceit, corruption, and betrayal to secure their share of Volpone's fortune. Through these characters, Jonson exposes the moral decay that can arise from the relentless pursuit of wealth and power.

The satirical elements in "Volpone" are further heightened through the use of farce and physical comedy. The play incorporates elements of slapstick humor, mistaken identities, and absurd situations to create comedic effects. The characters find themselves entangled in convoluted schemes, leading to chaotic and humorous outcomes. The exaggerated actions and reactions of the characters serve to emphasize the absurdity and folly of their pursuit of wealth and their willingness to compromise their integrity.

Furthermore, "Volpone" satirizes the social and political structures of its time. Jonson uses the character of Sir Politic Would-Be, an English visitor to Venice obsessed with self-importance and political intrigue, to mock the pretentiousness and superficiality of the political class. Sir Politic's exaggerated behavior and misplaced confidence serve as a satirical commentary on the corrupt nature of political machinations and the folly of those who blindly pursue power.

Jonson's satirical intent is also evident in the play's structure and language. "Volpone" is written in five acts, adhering to the conventions of classical comedy. The play features a tightly woven plot with intricate schemes and deceptions, reminiscent of the comedies of ancient Roman playwrights like Plautus and Terence. Jonson's use of poetic language, including rhyme, meter, and rhetorical devices, adds to the comedic effect and elevates the satirical nature of the play.

Ben Jonson’s play, "Volpone", hence, stands as a prime example of a satirical comedy. Through its humor, wit, and exaggerated characters, the play effectively critiques the vices and follies of society, with a particular focus on greed, materialism, and the corrupting influence of wealth and power. Ben Jonson's skillful use of satire, both in dialogue and dramatic structure, ensures that "Volpone" remains a timeless and enduring work of comedic social commentary.

*****

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