Disguise, Costume, And Role Playing In Ben Term Paper

Length: 4 pages Subject: Literature Type: Term Paper Paper: #45228358 Related Topics: Costumes, Elizabethan Theatre, Elizabethan Theater, Satire
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Disguise, Costume, And Role Playing in Ben Jonson's Volpone

Ben Jonson's Volpone, first performed in London in 1605, was a highly successful play centering on the theme of greed. Volpone is particularly notable for Jonson's characters' use of disguise, costume and role playing both to advance the action of the story and to visually express Jonson's ethical beliefs to educate his audience. By writing in the satiric comedic style, the author offered a classic example of his own philosophy that the poet should fulfill a moral function in society. The delightful satire of Volpone clearly exhibits the traits common in all of Jonson's drama: the style and setting are simple and clean; the verse is fast-paced and full of life and humor; the writer's point-of-view is expressed without being either didactic or overly lyrical. In addition to the words the characters speak, the physical garb and personalities they don at will gave Jonson's contemporary audience reason to remember the play long after they left the theater. The culture of their own Elizabethan England made a great issue of dress and representation, and Volpone must certainly have made those who viewed it think twice about the physical appearance and the behavior of themselves and others.

The names of the characters in Volpone offer the audience its first clue to what roles these individuals will play in the story. Most of the men's names are also the names of


Bonario's name plays on the term for "good," and he is in fact Corbaccio's good son. Even the travelers' names offer clues as to the roles they will play: Sir Politic Would-Be hopes to become an "insider" in Venetian and English state matters, though he never achieves his dream; but Peregrine, like his falcon namesake, is a shrewd observer and a savvy actor upon his knowledge.

Beyond the clues offered by their names, the characters in Volpone engage in role playing throughout the play. None shifts personality and character more influentially than the title character. Driven by his greed and by his love for trickery, Volpone chooses to play his game not with easily-duped victims, but rather with others like himself. Thus, while pretending to be ill for several years, with the community's knowledge that he has no heir, Volpone accepts the good wishes and gifts of his colleagues, who offer these in the hope that they will gain Volpone's goodwill for the giver. Mosca's task is to convince Volpone's acquaintances that, upon his supposedly-imminent demise, the Fox will leave all of his wealth to one or another of these would-be friends. Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino in turn are all convinced that Volpone has named each of them as his sole heir.

Volpone is informed by Mosca that Corvino has a most beautiful wife, Celia, of whom he is insanely jealous. Volpone, a genuine con man in his own life, takes on the costume of another con man to act as a medicine salesman in the public market, hoping to gain Celia's attention. Furthering his ploy, Mosca tells Corvino that physicians have told Volpone that he must lie with a beautiful young woman; seeing the opportunity to further ingratiate himself, Corvino sends Celia to fill this role. Further, he advises her that she must lie chastely with Volpone to prove her faithfulness as a wife. To calm Celia's fears, her husband assures her that Volpone is too ill and decrepit to harm her; in reality, however, Volpone throws off that disguise and attempts to rape Celia.…

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