PDF Volpone: Based on the Elizabethan Classic by Ben Jonson

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Volpone says: "Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!

Open the shrine, that I may see my saint. Hail the world's soul and mine!

BEN JONSON'S VOLPONE. - Free Online Library

One character wants to buy the secret of the helpful influence of the stars; another parts with his wealth to learn the alchemist's secret of turning everything into gold and jewels. The way in which these characters are deceived is very amusing. A study of this play adds to our knowledge of a certain phase of the times. In point of artistic construction of plot, The Alchemist is nowhere excelled in the English drama; but the intrusion of Jonson's learning often makes the play tedious reading, as when he introduces the technical terms of the so-called science of alchemy to show that he has studied it thoroughly.

One character speaks to the alchemist of- "Your lato, azoch, zernich, chibrit, heautarit," and another asks: "Can you sublime and dulcify?

Ben Jonson

Know you the sapor pontic? There must be remote matter. The leading character is called Morose, and his special whim or "humor" is a horror of noise. His home is on a street "so narrow at both ends that it will receive no coaches nor carts, nor any of these common noises. For a long time Morose does not marry, fearing the noise of a wife's tongue. Finally he commissions his nephew to find him a silent woman for a wife, and the author uses to good advantage the opportunity for comic situations which this turn in the action affords.

Dryden preferred The Silent Woman to any of the other plays. Besides the plays mentioned in this section, Jonson wrote during his long life many other comedies and masques as well as some tragedies.


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Marks of Decline. A study of the decline of the drama, as shown in Jonson's plays, will give us a better appreciation of the genius of Shakespeare. We may change Jonson's line so that it will state one reason for his not maintaining Shakespearean excellence: "He was not for all time, but of an age. He thus defines the sense in which he uses humor: "As when some one peculiar quality Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw All his affects, his spirits and his powers, In their connections, all to run one way, This may be truly said to be a Humor.

In Volpone everything is subsidiary to the humor of avarice, which receives unnatural emphasis. In The Alchemist there is little to relieve the picture of credibility and hypocrisy, while The Silent Woman has for its leading character a man whose principal "humor" or aim in life is to avoid noise.

No drama which fails to paint the nobler side of womanhood can be called complete. In Jonson's plays we do not find a single woman worthy to come near the Shakespearean characters, Cordelia, Imogen, and Desdemona. His limitations are nowhere more marked than in his inability to portray a noble woman.

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Another reason why he fails to present life completely is shown in these lines, in which he defines his mission: "My strict hand Was made to seize on vice, and with a gripe Squeeze out the humor of such spongy souls As lick up every idle vanity. Shakespeare displays some fellow feeling for the object of his satire, but Jonson's satire is cold and devoid of sympathy. Jonson deliberately took his stand in opposition to the romantic spirit of the age. Marlowe and Shakespeare had disregarded the classical unities and had developed the drama on romantic lines.

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Jonson resolved to follow classical traditions and to adhere to unity of time and place in the construction of his plots. The action in the play of The Silent Woman , for instance, occupies only twelve hours. General Characteristics. Jonson's plays show the touch of a conscientious artist with great intellectual ability. His vast erudition is constantly apparent. He is the satiric historian of his time, and he exhibits the follies and the humors of the age under a powerful lens. He is also the author of dainty lyrics p.

Ben Jonson Volpone

Among the shortcomings of his plays, we may specially note lack of feeling and of universality. He fails to comprehend the nature of woman.


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He is not a sympathetic observer of manifold life, but presents only what is perceived through the frosted glass of intellect. Characters like Celia [far left] were outside the cycle of greed and seemed like doves, so I dressed them in blue to keep them in a separate world.

Volpone [bottom] is the fox, so I thought it would be fun to dress him up in foxtails. I wanted to strip him down to a decaying figure, to show what greed does to us, so we put him in this 19th-century union suit, or onesie. I wanted characters like Nano and Castrone [bottom left and right], who entertain Volpone, to manifest the same decay as Volpone but in a punk, rock-and-roll kind of way, with some sexuality and androgyny. So we went into Vivienne Westwood and punk London to give the sense that they lived in dungeons and just popped up when called for.

To get to do something bold-shaped and weird was fun! ADV — Leaderboard.