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Volpone’s weakness

It is debatable, however, that Mosca’s manipulative personality would make him the dominant character without Volpone’s weakness of character as, on several occasions, when Volpone is thinking for himself Mosca influences his thoughts for his own gain and takes control of the situation. Jonson shows this immediately in the play, as Volpone initially leads the conversation in Act 1 scene I, but Mosca soon takes control, flattering Volpone with claims of what he believes him to be.

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When Mosca states that ‘riches are…a greater good than wisdom’ Volpone agrees partway, but says he ‘glories more in the cunning purchase of…wealth than in the glad possession’, so it appears he is the most leading of the pair, but Mosca seizes this and praises Volpone’s indulgence, using such analogies as a merchant with ‘rich Candian wines’ who ‘drinks the lees of Lombard’s vinegar’. He praises Volpone again for his generosity, claiming that he ‘dare’ give from the ‘bright heap’ of his gold to Mosca, his ‘poor observer’ This is not only seen with Volpone, but Mosca also uses his covertly persuasive methods to influence Corvino, making him too believe he is in control.

– Volpone leads conversation and then Mosca takes control – Unnecessary flattery leading to being given money – Makes them think they’re in control – Uses similar techniques on Corvino, despite already being shown to be an 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.


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