English Literature: 1590-1798

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Volpone epathsala


Section 1: Introduction
• Jonson’s early life and education
• His successful career as a dramatist
• His achievements and legacy as a major author of his times

Section 2: Plot Synopsis
• Volpone’s central intrigue involving the duping of the three fortune hunters
• Mosca’s role in bringing the action to a point of crisis
• The final resolution resulting in the punishment of vice
• Significance of the dramatic structure

Section 3: Characterization
• The literary lineage and features ofthe comedy of humours
• The satirical portrayal of characters as overruled by greed for money and pleasure
• Representation of the virtuous characters as exceptional foils to the vicious
Section 4: Themes
• Avarice as the central theme running through the action and characterization
• The themes of appearances and disguise explored through the various plot intrigues
• Implicit critique of the breakdown of personal relations in a materialistic society
Section 5: Social Commentary

• The socioeconomic context of the rise of mercantile classes in 17
• Pursuit of material pleasure as endemic to the society Jonson portrays
century England
• The resolution of the play’s action as representing Jonson’s moral vision of society

Section 6: Critical Overview
• Influence of Jonson’s comedy on humours on the Restoration comedy of manners
• Comparative criticism between Jonson and Shakespeare in the early 18
• Modern critics views on Jonson’s portrayal of family, class, law and society

Points to Ponder
• Jonson’s influence on the Restoration comedy of manners
• Class relations in Volpone as a reflection of early 17
th century social and economic structures in England
• Gender roles and family relations in Volpone
Do You Know

• In Jonson’s first successful play, Every Man in His Humour, Shakespeare played apart Jonson claimed to have written the entire text of Volpone in just five weeks.
• The first stage performance of Volpone was put up by the King’s Men, the same group which enacted many of Shakespeare’s plays too.
• In response to the popular legend that Shakespeare never blotted a line while he wrote, Jonson said, Would he had blotted a thousand.

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