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Volpone (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – May 20, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A solid and useful book. --Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Robert Watson is Professor of English at UCLA
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (May 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486280497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486280493
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,760,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on November 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I had expected Jonson's plays to be difficult and certainly less rewarding than Shakespeare. Surprisingly, despite the passage of four centuries, the humor in "Volpone" remains natural and entertaining today. I have now read several other comedies by Ben Jonson, but "Volpone" remains my favorite.

I did have difficulty getting started with "Volpone". The rather long dedication, the argument, and the prologue all took their toll. To make matters worse, I was completely confused and lost in Act One, Scene One, by a "Pythagorean satire", entertainment provided by Volpone's eccentric servants, Mosca, Nano, Andrrogyno, and Castrone. (I later learned that Jonson may have added this literary satire for special performances at Oxford and Cambridge. Apparently Jonson knew his scholars well, as "Volpone" was well-received at both universities.)

Fortunately, Scene One is not representative of the play, and I had little difficulty thereafter with either the plot or the humor. Unlike Shakespeare, Ben Jonson's characters seldom reflect on their motivations in soliloquies or insightful dialogue. We meet characters without great complexity. Once we know them, we find that they remain in character and behave predictably. This does not mean his characters are shallow or uninteresting. I even found myself somewhat sympathetic for the unscrupulous Volpone, Mosca, Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino. They are all villains, just not particularly villainous villains.

Even though the characters behave predictably, the plot is anything but predictable. The confusion builds throughout the play and I had no idea how Jonson was going to resolve the situation in Act Five. I quite enjoyed "Volpone" and I would like to have an opportunity to see it on stage someday.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 1997
Format: Paperback
Volpone is a fast-paced comedic drama with Italian inspiration. <BA>Though the language of Volpone may at first induce flashbacks of seemingly endless hours listening to a grade-school teacher praise the words of Shakespeare and the feeling that perhaps you had not learned to read after all; do not paint Volpone with the brush you had in grade nine! Volpone contains all of the things that we value in good books in the twentieth century : deception, greed, lust and humour. The language is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance and the play moves quickly. It will keep you smiling throughout.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C on November 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Well, I liked this a LOT more than I thought I would. I assumed that Jonson would write plays like Shakespeare, and I am very selective about which Shakespeare plays I really enjoy (namely, 'Othello'). But this, this is such a good book. I don't even usually like reading plays. Let me explain why it is so good:

Firstly, although Volpone is caught out at the end, the whole of the play is a gloriously satisfying dance of mind-games andpure hedonism. For vicarious living, it's great. I, for one, wish I was as clever as Volpone. For those who take delight in the sheer style and talent of people who thoroughly enjoy life, this is a play for you. Admittedly Volpone is a completely amoral character, but the satisfaction in his plots comes because those who he is punishing are immoral themselves. I have to admit, perhaps I wish I was so amoral because of the consequent enjoyment.

Secondly - I love how many levels this play works on. It is simultaneously both a homage to and a mockery of traditional morality plays - everything seems to have worked out by the end, but when the results are thought through, the end is not satisfactory. Good has not triumphed over evil as in traditional morality plays; evil has sabotaged itself, a subtle but important difference. Celia seems to have been let off, but in that era it is likely that her tripled dowry will be owned by her father and she will become a disgraced divorced woman.

Thirdly - Peregrine is wonderful. He is the dry, cynical person who knows exactly what's going on and has sussed every plot - this character should be in every play.

There are two very small, insignificant reasons why I have not given this 5 stars. Firstly, I wish that Volpone had gotten away with his schemes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on September 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
This comedy is so entangled that a fox would lose his cubs in the multiple loops and traps that are conjured up by all the characters. It reveals how the rich are greedy and want to become richer at the expense of their fellow richmen. It exposes how the politicians are nothing but windbags, would-bes as Jonson calls them. It points out how some women are nothing but flytraps that know everything, that say anything, that have the last word at any time ever. It also shows how a conjurer of tricks aiming at trapping others and taking possession of their goods needs a helper and that the helper can learn even faster than the master, especially if this helper is a parasite by nature. It also shows how men are lecherous and only think of taking the wives of their neighbors because these men, this society is deeply misogynistic and consider that women are harlots, and some other nice words, by nature. There is thus a wide spectrum of criticism of this society, maybe a little bit too wide and too complicated. Due to the names of the characters, the crow, the raven and even the fox are the final victims of the plain fly that is nothing but a parasite sucking the gold of the others. The ending is moral since Bonario and Celia do get some justice from the court, but it is also perfectly immoral because Mosca keeps his unethically gained fortune, in fact the fortune he has stolen from Volpone who wanted to steal the riches of everyone else. It is moral in a way because the immoral and greedy plotters are all punished but it is immoral because the main sorcerer's helper gets his hand on the loot. The sorcerer's apprentice is thus more or less the main benefactor of the moral decision of the court.Read more ›
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