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Examine the relationship between Volpone and Mosca in Acts I and II of the Ben Jonson play "Volpone"; to what extent is Volpone presented as the dominant partner?

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Introduction

Examine the relationship between Volpone and Mosca in Acts I and II; to what extent is Volpone presented as the dominant partner? During The Argument at the beginning of the play the audience is told that, although the play's title is 'Volpone', the play is mostly centred on 'his parasite', Mosca, and the cross-plots he 'weaves' as he 'assures' and 'deludes' the other characters. Despite this, Volpone is not entirely submissive. There are several occasions where he is the stronger, commanding character, and throughout the play there are some elements of permanent authority, which cannot be overlooked. As stated in 'The Persons of the Comedy', Volpone is a 'Magnifico', an entrepreneur who would be socially higher than his parasite, Mosca, and therefore better educated than him. This good education is seen in Act II Scene ii as Volpone speaks as the mountebank, Scoto of Mantua. Although it is unknown who contrived the plot, although it is assumed to be Mosca as he suggests the disguise, Volpone uses scientific language, such as 'mal caduco' and 'hernia ventosa', to convince the crowd to buy his oil, even calling in 'Oglio del Scoto'. Even if Mosca had created the idea, he would have been unable to use such language to make the crowd believe Volpone was Scoto, and therefore he is reliant on Volpone's knowledge to help carry out his plans. ...read more.

Middle

is an advocate, and then tells Corbaccio Volpone 'was about his testament' 'for [Corbaccio's] good', giving him a positive reason for Voltore's presence. Through this Mosca also manages to increase the wealth accumulated through their enterprise, by playing the three clients off against each other. This is again seen in Act 1 Scene iv as Mosca tells Corbaccio of Voltore's 'piece of plate' for Volpone 'to be his heir', leading him to proffer 'a bag of bright chequins', and later to proclaim Volpone his 'sole heir', thereby denying his 'brave, and highly meriting' son, Bonario. However, this does not entirely prove Mosca to be the stronger orchestrator of events or show Volpone to be weak, as Volpone has to act the dying man, and therefore cannot play a great role in manipulating the clients. This is shown in the way Mosca handles the subplot of Celia more skilfully than Volpone, and his greater level of control and forward thinking. Mosca's role in the play is more as a stage manager than a servant, and on many occasions he is shown to handle situations more adroitly than Volpone. One of the greatest ways Jonson shows this is in the plot to win Celia, something that Mosca himself introduces in Act 1 Scene v, enticing Volpone as he calls her 'The blazing star of Italy'. ...read more.

Conclusion

impossible task, and wins Celia for Volpone Despite Mosca's calculating nature and his clear skill in manipulating the clients and, to some extent, Volpone, he is dependent on Volpone for a home and his livelihood and therefore, on a larger scale, it is Volpone who is the dominant character, providing the situation and means for Mosca to carry out his deceptions. Socially, Mosca will always be the lesser of the two, but his furtive dominance is achieved through his personality, as seen in his control of Volpone and the clients. His lower social class also acts as a cunning guise, gulling others into believing his is incapable of influencing them for his gain due, particularly due to his having little or no formal education. It is therefore in personality that we see Mosca as the dominant partner, and it is this aspect of the characters that is overtly focused on in the play. Volpone would be incapable of his 'cunning purchase of...wealth' without Mosca, and Mosca, as a parasite, needs Volpone to support himself and live. Although unbalanced, there is an element of co-dominance and dependence in Volpone and Mosca's relationship, with Mosca dependent on material goods, and Volpone dominant in this area, yet dependent on Mosca's personality attributes, making Mosca the more dominant in their relationship. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

This is a promising essay, with some thoughtful analysis of these two main characters and their mutual dependence. The Introduction needs clearer aims, setting out a thesis to be discussed in the analysis. There is some promising further material in the bullet points but this would attract no marks in its present form; it needs to be expanded and fully supported with quotations and analysis.

Sentence and paragraph structure are sound, with very few grammatical mistakes and adequate lexis.

With development along the same lines, this essay could merit 4 or even 5 stars.

3 stars.

Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 23/07/2013

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