Volpone essays and criticism


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For the most part he followed the great north road, and was treated to lavish and enthusiastic welcomes in both towns and country houses. Drummond undertook to record as much of Jonson's conversation as he could in his diary, and thus recorded aspects of Jonson's personality that would otherwise have been less clearly seen. Jonson delivers his opinions, in Drummond's terse reporting, in an expansive and even magisterial mood.

Drummond noted he was "a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemner and scorner of others". The period between and may be viewed as Jonson's heyday. By he had produced all the plays on which his present reputation as a dramatist is based, including the tragedy Catiline acted and printed , which achieved limited success [3] and the comedies Volpone acted and printed in , Epicoene, or the Silent Woman , The Alchemist , Bartholomew Fair and The Devil Is an Ass Of Epicoene , Jonson told Drummond of a satirical verse which reported that the play's subtitle was appropriate, since its audience had refused to applaud the play i.

Yet Epicoene , along with Bartholomew Fair and to a lesser extent The Devil is an Ass have in modern times achieved a certain degree of recognition. While his life during this period was apparently more settled than it had been in the s, his financial security was still not assured.

Jonson recounted that his father had been a prosperous Protestant landowner until the reign of " Bloody Mary " and had suffered imprisonment and the forfeiture of his wealth during that monarch's attempt to restore England to Catholicism. On Elizabeth 's accession he was freed and was able to travel to London to become a clergyman. Jonson's elementary education was in a small church school attached to St Martin-in-the-Fields parish, and at the age of about seven he secured a place at Westminster School , then part of Westminster Abbey. Notwithstanding this emphatically Protestant grounding, Jonson maintained an interest in Catholic doctrine throughout his adult life and, at a particularly perilous time while a religious war with Spain was widely expected and persecution of Catholics was intensifying, he converted to the faith.

Jonson's biographer Ian Donaldson is among those who suggest that the conversion was instigated by Father Thomas Wright, a Jesuit priest who had resigned from the order over his acceptance of Queen Elizabeth's right to rule in England. Conviction, and certainly not expedience alone, sustained Jonson's faith during the troublesome twelve years he remained a Catholic. His stance received attention beyond the low-level intolerance to which most followers of that faith were exposed.

The first draft of his play Sejanus was banned for " popery ", and did not re-appear until some offending passages were cut. His habit was to slip outside during the sacrament, a common routine at the time—indeed it was one followed by the royal consort, Queen Anne , herself—to show political loyalty while not offending the conscience. In May Henry IV of France was assassinated, purportedly in the name of the Pope; he had been a Catholic monarch respected in England for tolerance towards Protestants, and his murder seems to have been the immediate cause of Jonson's decision to rejoin the Church of England.

Jonson's productivity began to decline in the s, but he remained well known. However, a series of setbacks drained his strength and damaged his reputation. He resumed writing regular plays in the s, but these are not considered among his best. They are of significant interest, however, for their portrayal of Charles I 's England. The Staple of News , for example, offers a remarkable look at the earliest stage of English journalism. The lukewarm reception given that play was, however, nothing compared to the dismal failure of The New Inn ; the cold reception given this play prompted Jonson to write a poem condemning his audience An Ode to Himself , which in turn prompted Thomas Carew , one of the "Tribe of Ben," to respond in a poem that asks Jonson to recognise his own decline.

The principal factor in Jonson's partial eclipse was, however, the death of James and the accession of King Charles I in Jonson felt neglected by the new court. A decisive quarrel with Jones harmed his career as a writer of court masques, although he continued to entertain the court on an irregular basis. Despite the strokes that he suffered in the s, Jonson continued to write. At his death in he seems to have been working on another play, The Sad Shepherd. Though only two acts are extant, this represents a remarkable new direction for Jonson: a move into pastoral drama.

During the early s he also conducted a correspondence with James Howell , who warned him about disfavour at court in the wake of his dispute with Jones. Jonson died on or around 16 August , and his funeral was held the next day. It was attended by 'all or the greatest part of the nobility then in town'. Another theory suggests that the tribute came from William Davenant , Jonson's successor as Poet Laureate and card-playing companion of Young , as the same phrase appears on Davenant's nearby gravestone, but essayist Leigh Hunt contends that Davenant's wording represented no more than Young's coinage, cheaply re-used.

It has been claimed that the inscription could be read "Orare Ben Jonson" pray for Ben Jonson , possibly in an allusion to Jonson's acceptance of Catholic doctrine during his lifetime although he had returned to the Church of England but the carving shows a distinct space between "O" and "rare". It includes a portrait medallion and the same inscription as on the gravestone.

It seems Jonson was to have had a monument erected by subscription soon after his death but the English Civil War intervened. Apart from two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline , that largely failed to impress Renaissance audiences, Jonson's work for the public theatres was in comedy.

These plays vary in some respects. The minor early plays, particularly those written for boy players , present somewhat looser plots and less-developed characters than those written later, for adult companies. Already in the plays which were his salvos in the Poet's War, he displays the keen eye for absurdity and hypocrisy that marks his best-known plays; in these early efforts, however, plot mostly takes second place to variety of incident and comic set-pieces.

They are, also, notably ill-tempered.

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Thomas Davies called Poetaster "a contemptible mixture of the serio-comic, where the names of Augustus Caesar , Maecenas , Virgil , Horace , Ovid and Tibullus , are all sacrificed upon the altar of private resentment". Another early comedy in a different vein, The Case is Altered , is markedly similar to Shakespeare's romantic comedies in its foreign setting, emphasis on genial wit and love-plot. Henslowe's diary indicates that Jonson had a hand in numerous other plays, including many in genres such as English history with which he is not otherwise associated. The comedies of his middle career, from Eastward Hoe to The Devil Is an Ass are for the most part city comedy , with a London setting, themes of trickery and money, and a distinct moral ambiguity, despite Jonson's professed aim in the Prologue to Volpone to "mix profit with your pleasure".

His late plays or " dotages ", particularly The Magnetic Lady and The Sad Shepherd , exhibit signs of an accommodation with the romantic tendencies of Elizabethan comedy. Within this general progression, however, Jonson's comic style remained constant and easily recognisable. He announces his programme in the prologue to the folio version of Every Man in His Humour : he promises to represent "deeds, and language, such as men do use". He planned to write comedies that revived the classical premises of Elizabethan dramatic theory—or rather, since all but the loosest English comedies could claim some descent from Plautus and Terence , he intended to apply those premises with rigour.

He set his plays in contemporary settings, peopled them with recognisable types, and set them to actions that, if not strictly realistic, involved everyday motives such as greed and jealousy. In accordance with the temper of his age, he was often so broad in his characterisation that many of his most famous scenes border on the farcical as William Congreve , for example, judged Epicoene. He was more diligent in adhering to the classical unities than many of his peers—although as Margaret Cavendish noted, the unity of action in the major comedies was rather compromised by Jonson's abundance of incident.

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To this classical model Jonson applied the two features of his style which save his classical imitations from mere pedantry: the vividness with which he depicted the lives of his characters, and the intricacy of his plots. Coleridge, for instance, claimed that The Alchemist had one of the three most perfect plots in literature. Jonson's poetry, like his drama, is informed by his classical learning. Some of his better-known poems are close translations of Greek or Roman models; all display the careful attention to form and style that often came naturally to those trained in classics in the humanist manner.

Jonson largely avoided the debates about rhyme and meter that had consumed Elizabethan classicists such as Thomas Campion and Gabriel Harvey. Accepting both rhyme and stress, Jonson used them to mimic the classical qualities of simplicity, restraint and precision. The epigrams explore various attitudes, most from the satiric stock of the day: complaints against women, courtiers and spies abound.

Although it is included among the epigrams, " On My First Sonne " is neither satirical nor very short; the poem, intensely personal and deeply felt, typifies a genre that would come to be called "lyric poetry. A few other so-called epigrams share this quality. Jonson's poems of "The Forest" also appeared in the first folio. Underwood , published in the expanded folio of , is a larger and more heterogeneous group of poems.

It contains A Celebration of Charis , Jonson's most extended effort at love poetry; various religious pieces; encomiastic poems including the poem to Shakespeare and a sonnet on Mary Wroth ; the Execration against Vulcan and others. The volume also contains three elegies which have often been ascribed to Donne one of them appeared in Donne's posthumous collected poems. There are many legends about Jonson's rivalry with Shakespeare , some of which may be true. Drummond also reported Jonson as saying that Shakespeare "wanted art" i. Whether Drummond is viewed as accurate or not, the comments fit well with Jonson's well-known theories about literature.

In "De Shakespeare Nostrat" in Timber , which was published posthumously and reflects his lifetime of practical experience, Jonson offers a fuller and more conciliatory comment. He recalls being told by certain actors that Shakespeare never blotted i. His own claimed response was "Would he had blotted a thousand! Thomas Fuller relates stories of Jonson and Shakespeare engaging in debates in the Mermaid Tavern ; Fuller imagines conversations in which Shakespeare would run rings around the more learned but more ponderous Jonson.

That the two men knew each other personally is beyond doubt, not only because of the tone of Jonson's references to him but because Shakespeare's company produced a number of Jonson's plays, at least two of which Every Man in His Humour and Sejanus His Fall Shakespeare certainly acted in. However, it is now impossible to tell how much personal communication they had, and tales of their friendship cannot be substantiated. Jonson's most influential and revealing commentary on Shakespeare is the second of the two poems that he contributed to the prefatory verse that opens Shakespeare's First Folio.

William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us" , did a good deal to create the traditional view of Shakespeare as a poet who, despite "small Latine, and lesse Greeke", [49] had a natural genius. The poem has traditionally been thought to exemplify the contrast which Jonson perceived between himself, the disciplined and erudite classicist, scornful of ignorance and sceptical of the masses, and Shakespeare, represented in the poem as a kind of natural wonder whose genius was not subject to any rules except those of the audiences for which he wrote.

But the poem itself qualifies this view:. Some view this elegy as a conventional exercise, but others see it as a heartfelt tribute to the "Sweet Swan of Avon", the "Soul of the Age! Jonson was a towering literary figure, and his influence was enormous for he has been described as 'One of the most vigorous minds that ever added to the strength of English literature'. John Aubrey wrote of Jonson in " Brief Lives. In the Romantic era, Jonson suffered the fate of being unfairly compared and contrasted to Shakespeare, as the taste for Jonson's type of satirical comedy decreased.

Jonson was at times greatly appreciated by the Romantics, but overall he was denigrated for not writing in a Shakespearean vein. In , after more than two decades of research, Cambridge University Press published the first new edition of Jonson's complete works for 60 years.

Parker, Dutton, Buggeswords, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Compare Volpone, III. John J. Richetti Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , Thomas Killigrew, Comedies and tragedies London, , Sig. Carolyn D. Brian Woolland Aldershot: Ashgate, , —5. Brian Woolland, — Jasper Mayne, A late printed sermon against false prophets, vindicated by letter, from the causeless aspersions of Mr. Francis Cheynell London, , Sig. Barten Holyday, A survey of the world in ten books Oxford, , Sig. Noyes, Ben Jonson on the English Stage, —, 67— Robert G.

William Burnaby, writing in Cited in Critical Heritage, ed. Craig, — Gregory Smith, 4 vols. London: J. Dent, , iii, C3v, H1r. Nicolas Boileau, The Art of Poetry, trans. F4r-F5r, G2v-G3r. Margaret Cavendish, Playes London, , Sig. Brian Woolland Aldershot: Ashgate, , Noyes, Ben Jonson on the English Stage, —, 92— Mary O.

Thomas Atlanta, Ga. Anonymous review in The Morning Chronicle, 13 September G1r-v, Sig. Jonas A. Barish London: Macmillan, , London, , iii, — Paul H. XII Berlin, , 1— William Gifford, 9 Vols London, , iii, Cumberland, The Observer, iv, James Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae. George W. Ben Jonson, ed. Herford and Percy Simpson, Vol. Ejner J. Kay, Literary Life, Helen Ostovich Harlow: Longman, , 8—9, On the debt to Aristophanes, see also P.

See also Jonson, Volpone, ed. Parker, 10—12, — On the classical sources generally, see George A. On Sutton, see Robert C. On the representation of Venice, see R. Michele Marrapodi, et al. Translated into English by William Caxton in For a modern translation, see D. Jonson, Volpone, ed. Riggs, Jonson, — Martin Butler Houndmills: Macmillan, , 1. Butler, 4. Alice Shalvi and A. Or the Fox? Stephen J. Donaldson, Magic Houses, Mark A. The first recorded revival of Volpone after the Restoration was in The Fox above our boasting Play-bills shew, Variety of musick stands below.

This collaboration was to last until Richard Steele praised a Drury Lane production in The Tatler, remarking that the play was so impressive that it put more recent dramas to shame: This night was acted the comedy, called, the Fox; but I wonder the modern writers do not use their interest in the house to suppress such representations. A man that has been at this, will hardly like any other play during the season [. However, throughout at least some of this period, Powell shared the role of Volpone with the actor John Mills.

From —, Volpone was played once a year, on average, and was performed before royalty twice: at Hampton Court in and at Drury Lane in After , there were no productions of Volpone at Drury Lane for four years, until the play was revived for a single performance in , starring John Mills and Robert Wilks. There were no Drury Lane performances in or , but then in , the play was revived again — possibly because James Quin had rejoined the company for the — season, leaving the Covent Garden players. Quin stayed with the Drury Lane company for seven seasons, during which time he was replaced as Volpone at Covent Garden by the Irish actor Dennis Delane.

During this period, the play seems to have been very popular: in and there were twelve performances altogether, shared between Drury Lane, Covent Garden and the Haymarket. During this period of neglect, the famous actor-manager David Garrick developed plans to revive Volpone at Drury Lane, with himself as the lead, and there were announcements in the press to this effect in both and An attempt to redress these problems was made by George Colman in his adaptation. Fashions in theatre had changed, and Jacobean drama was beginning to fall out of favour.

The vogue was for plays that were impeccable in their moral values, high on noble sentiments and low in intellectual content, and most early seventeenth century plays failed to fit that mould. Colman tried again in the s, making still more drastic revisions and cutting the Would-be plot altogether. This version, performed at the Haymarket theatre and featuring John Palmer as Volpone and Robert Bensley as Mosca, ran for eight performances in and received good reviews, both for the performances and the revised play itself.

However, this production only lasted three nights before the theatre was closed, and there were no further productions of the play at all, either in adapted or original form, for another years. The next production of Volpone was therefore not until January , when the Phoenix Society revived the play at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. Yeats attended one of these performances and in a letter to the Phoenix Society secretary remarks, Volpone was even finer than I expected.

I could think of nothing else for hours after I left the theatre. The great surprise to me was the pathos of the two young people [Celia and Bonario], united not in love but in innocence, and going in the end their separate way. Critical response was generally enthusiastic, although some critics expressed doubts about the farcical style in which some of the more minor parts were performed.

As the programme note put it, The original was couched in extravagant language and much reference to classical incident which made the play somewhat difficult for modern requirements, this has now been deleted [. However, several critics felt that this latter change undermined the effectiveness of the courtroom scenes, by turning them into farce. Wolfit directed the play again in , , , and In his own later versions, he directed his Moscas to be more subservient. It became common for directors to stress the beast-fable aspect of the story and to cut the Would-bes, and common for critics to view the show as a star-vehicle, rather than an ensemble piece.

It was also hard for other actors playing the part in the years immediately following Wolfit to live up to his performance: they were frequently compared to Wolfit and found wanting. Since Wolfit, however, there have been several other notable productions in their own right. The reviews were mixed: many thought it a good production, but were unsure about the slowness and gentleness with which Richardson played the part. Michael Hordern and Miss Rosalind Atkinson could not, with all their talent, fully reconcile us to their presence here.

The scenes [. This version aimed for greater realism than some previous productions had done. The passions, in keeping with the taming of the allegory, are brought down to life-size from the grand caricatures they sometimes appear. However, although some critics found his performance impressive, others complained that, like Ralph Richardson in , he was too restrained.

Scofield himself too noble a figure. The Volpone, played by Richard Griffiths, met with mixed responses: several critics felt he was better at the more flamboyant scenes than the more intimative and sensuous ones, which made sequences such as the attempted seduction of Celia less powerful than they might have been.

The most recent notable production of Volpone was in , at the Royal National Theatre. This version starred Michael Gambon as Volpone and Simon Russell Beale as Mosca, and the strong cast and lively nature of the production were commented on by virtually all critics. Instead, he played up the spectacle, and added extra stage business, such as an opening dumbshow in which Volpone is chased through the house by a pack of legacyhunters.

Nevertheless, the production won him an Olivier award nomination, and its popularity with audiences showed that Volpone still had the power to attract packed houses, nearly four hundred years after its first performance. In general, of all these twentieth-century productions of Volpone, the most admired and appreciated ones seem to be those in which the balance of the play is felt to be right. The energy and pace must not be allowed to drop, as then the performance drags, but equally should not be too fast, as then the poetry cannot be heard or understood.

However, there also seems to a tendency for productions, particularly those with a large budget, to overdo the spectacle, leaving reviewers complaining of sensory overload and the losing of the plot beneath the special effects.

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Several directors have cut the epilogue85 or even replaced it with scenes in which — for example — Volpone escapes from his guard and runs away Bristol, , dir. Richard David. When he directed his London version, he dropped both madrigal and epilogue, leaving only the final sentencing, which was accompanied by laughter from the Avocatori. It has been performed and broadcast six times on BBC radio. The play has been also been the subject of numerous adaptations, of which the most influential was the rewrite by Stefan Zweig. This Mosca — who has been working with Volpone for only eight weeks when the play begins — is a playful, good-humoured man, who believes that wealth should be distributed rather than hoarded.

Zweig also gives Volpone a mistress, in the form of the prostitute Canina, whom he may have based on Doll Common in The Alchemist. Foxy turned Volpone into a farce, set in the Canadian Yukon during the gold rush. This version provided a happy ending for Volpone, Mosca and Erminella, who escape together on a boat to Genoa.

Despite all this, though, Volpone has proved its continuing theatrical viability over the years. Whether performed on a largely bare stage, as in the first performances at the Globe, or with the elaborate, mechanical sets and complicated special effects of some more recent productions, whether played as a grotesque beast-fable or a more low-key and naturalistic study of human selfishness and greed, Volpone has continued to attract audiences; and in the years since the Phoenix revival, the play has become the most frequently produced play of the Jacobean and Caroline period, outside of the works of Shakespeare.

Manchester: Manchester University Press, : Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson Vol. Unless otherwise stated, my sources for accounts of late seventeenth and eighteenth century productions of Volpone are Noyes, and also Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson Vol. IX, — De Beer Oxford: Clarendon Press, : Bell and Sons, : Anthony Wood, quoted in Noyes, English Stage Noyes dates this prologue to between and , when the vogue for operatic versions of early modern plays was at its height.

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  7. English Post, 27—30 December Judith Milhous and Robert D. This revised edition has not yet been published, but can be found online at [accessed 10 March ] Noyes, English Stage Quoted in The London Stage —, Part 2: —, ed. Emmett L Avery, Vol. Quoted in Noyes, English Stage Richard Steele, The Tatler, 26—28 May Richard Steele, The Tatler, 14—16 April Richard Steele, The Spectator, 5 May This theatre had opened in Delane took over the part of Volpone in Cooke, Charles Macklin Davies, Dramatic Miscellanies — , Critical Heritage Yeats, ed.

    Eliot, The Dial 70, June IX, Anonymous, The Times, 28 April Anonymous, Manchester Guardian, 2 August Anonymous, The Times, 31 July Kathleen Tynan London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, The Times, 13 October Anonymous, The Times, 7 June Harold Conway, Evening Standard, 16 July Peter Rodford, Plays and Players, January Thomas Willis, Chicago Tribune, 8 September Harold Clurman, The Nation, 10 August Benedict Nightingale, Plays and Players, March Irving Wardle, The Times, 10 August John Barber, Daily Telegraph, 27 April Paul Taylor, The Telegraph, 29 July Robert Macdonald, The Scotsman, 22 January Stephen Williams, Evening News, 4 March Conway, Evening Standard, 16 July Craig and retitled The Fox and the Gold, broadcast on 21 February ; , broadcast on 17 June ; , broadcast on 9 May ; , broadcast on 28 March and 17 April The casting is of some interest, however — Volpone was played by Harry Bauer, who typically specialised in Semitic roles, such as Shylock, and played Volpone as a Jewish stereotype, complete with false nose.

    Peter Fleming, The Spectator, 30 January Although it ran for seven weeks in the summer of , in a theatre in Dawson City in the Yukon, the box-office receipts were poor. It was subsequently revived on Broadway, with several new songs and new choreography, in , where it ran for seventy-two performances. London: William Pickering, : Parker and David M. Of course, so rapid, unpredictable, and unrelenting is the progress of online technologies that any individual attempt to describe the impact of the internet on literary research becomes anachronistic almost as soon as it is written.

    I also hope to use this chapter to outline the kinds of developments that have taken place in the study, performance and influence of Volpone in the first years of the twenty-first century, and I hope, as well, to suggest some opportunities for further work, many of them centred on the world wide web. Access to these resources unlike access to many of the other sites already mentioned is presently free and seems likely to remain so, and the fact that both amazon and Google books focus on providing searchable versions of monographs makes them especially valuable.

    Google books, in fact, is adding millions of new titles to its database each year, including full-text, downloadable versions of many books and journals that have long been out of copyright. Increasingly easy access to growing numbers of books and articles from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries now makes it possible for almost anyone to do research of a sort that could have been conducted, in the past, only at the very best academic libraries — research which even then would have been enormously time-consuming if not impossible.

    Google books not only provides access to the complete versions of millions of texts that are out of copyright, but it also often provides surprisingly full access to numerous recent texts that are very much in copyright. The book can then be ordered via interlibrary loan. Thanks to such resources as Google books and amazon. In short, in the first decade of twenty-first century, the possibilities for scholars have been almost totally transformed and wonderfully enriched.

    And things are only likely to get better. In the recent past, when one wanted to do serious academic research on Volpone, one would have begun by searching such resources as the online MLA Bibliography or Literature Online. At present, however, it THE STATE OF THE ART 57 would be irresponsible to stop with those resources or even with any of the other resources available at most academic libraries such as online catalogues, which now increasingly list not only relevant books but also the contents of essay collections.

    These days, it makes great sense to search Google books and amazon. In the following pages, having relied in part on such internet searches, I hope to indicate the kind of work that has been done on Volpone from to early in the following areas of concentration: 1 overviews; 2 sources and parallels; 3 historical contexts; 4 themes; 5 economics; 6 reception; 7 performances and performance issues; 8 influence and adaptations; 9 artistry and craft; and 10 editions.

    My goal is to be as comprehensive as possible, calling attention to as many different useful sources as I can. Elsewhere in his book, Loxley touches on such other aspects of the work as its use of the carnivalesque, the importance of its Dedicatory Epistle, its depiction of erotic disorder, its exploration of gender, its focus on shape-shifting, and its presentation of the role of the state.

    McEvoy notes, for instance, the dangers of excessive reliance on stage business, the importance of high energy and pacing, and the traits of successful portrayals of Mosca. Blevins suggests that Jonson wrote at the beginning of a trend in which neo-classical poets imitated the words of their classical predecessors but not necessarily their sentiments. Volpone himself they note shares striking similarities to a Dantean sinner named Gianni Schicchi, and they also compare the careers of Jonson and his Italian forbear.

    Most interestingly, Teague suggested that the Avocatori are generally conscientious in their conduct and that they legitimately decide in favor of the plaintiffs who make the most convincing case. The Avocatori are not flawless, Teague contended, but they come off better than court personnel in various other works by Jonson. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most thought-provoking discussions of the play to appear in a long time, and that even those who are not entirely convinced by its central claims will find it highly stimulating and well worth reading.

    Especially important in this regard has been the work of Tanya Pollard, who in stressed the similarities in this play between the roles of actors and doctors, arguing that the play parodies contemporary medical charlatans while also parodying theatre itself. Chaplin stressed the tensions inherent in collaboration at least for a writer such as Jonson , and he also explored the ways in which collaboration and its tensions become important themes within Volpone and in various later Jonsonian plays.


    According to this view, Mosca and Volpone are themselves collaborators whose relationship fractures by the end of the work. Themes Thematic critics — who tend to be interested in literary works mainly for the ideas they explore or express — have found much to intrigue them recently in Volpone. Other themes that have been the subject of recent attention include issues of desire, sex and gender. He argued, for instance in contrast to other recent commentators that the bond between Volpone and Mosca is not erotic but instead resembles that between a team captain and his star player.

    Competitive masculine energies are displayed by most of the major characters, including the leading pair, but Volpone and Mosca know how to exploit those energies in others. She noted that Volpone often places himself in female subject positions, making himself the focus of male desire, almost like a Petrarchan mistress. All in all, her discussion of economics in the play manages to be both rigorously grounded in theology and history as well as lucid in its phrasing. Performances and Performance Issues Volpone, as a stage production, apparently pleased its first audiences, and it has done so repeatedly throughout the centuries when it has been well presented.

    Recent discussions of the play as a work for the stage have been extensive. Bruce R. References in recent books to performances of Volpone are numerous, varied and often intriguing. Thus, in addition to Joan Littlewood, Nina Vance was another early female director of the play she staged productions in and , 97 while one recent reference book lists a number of African-American actors who have performed in the work.

    National Theater of the Deaf,99 while several sources comment on the involvement of dwarfs either in the play itself or in works inspired by it. The eminent British composer William Walton apparently considered writing an opera based on Volpone, and the avante-garde American composer George Antheil did in fact create such an opera — a work which can now be listened to in its entirety on the internet.

    Surely this will continue to be the case, and indeed the rise of the internet will make it easier and easier for adaptors to share their work with a world-wide audience. Volpone, after all, is presumably worthy of all the attention lavished on it including all the study of sources, themes, historical contexts, reception, influence and so on because it is a highly skilful piece of writing.

    If it were merely another text from the Renaissance however interesting as an historical document or statement of ideas it would surely not command the kind of attention, respect and even affection it has always attracted. Perhaps critics feel that all that can be said on this subject has been said already; perhaps they feel that the artistic merits of the play are so obvious that they need little sustained attention. Whatever the reasons, it is striking that attention to the artistry and craft of Volpone has been the subject of so little extended discussion in recent writing about the play.

    Passing comments on the skill and structure of the work can be found in many essays and books, but detailed exploration of these topics is relatively rare. The act breaks sharply into two distinct units: I. He discusses the skilful introduction of the various characters, and he also suggests that Jonson is more indebted to English structural models than his invocation of Roman authorities might imply.

    It would be helpful to have more such work, since it is work of this sort that is likely to help non-Jonsonians appreciate why Volpone has always commanded such affection and respect. Editions The period covered by the present article — is framed, on the outside, by the publication of two major editions of Volpone — R.

    Meanwhile, Robert N. Watson, in a very useful version of the play for the New Mermaids series, offered a superb introduction covering such matters as biography, genre, the major characters, the subplot, the conclusion, the stage history, and the choice of copy texts. This is Michael W. The play itself is very fully annotated, and although the edition is not yet entirely complete and is now several years out of date , it is a superb undertaking especially in its searchable electronic version , and I shall have more to say about it below.

    So much critical 74 VOLPONE work has already been done on Volpone, and so much is still being done, that it seems imperative that a critical variorum edition of the work should not only be published in book form but should be issued online, where it can be continuously supplemented. Fortunately, Michael Stamps has provided the groundwork for such a project; all that remains now is to make sure that his edition perhaps revised and updated gets into print and even more important that it is put online in some formal way so that our sense of the scholarship on Volpone can be constantly brought up to date in an organized and coherent fashion.

    Such a project would allow scholars and students to see very easily what has already been said sometimes over and over about the play and would also thus stimulate new directions and new developments in scholarship. Audio versions of Volpone along the lines of the Caedmon or Arkangel Shakespeare series would be highly helpful to students. Likewise, the rise of file-sharing sites makes it increasingly likely that good amateur audio versions of the play will be recorded and made widely accessible. In an ideal world, practically everything of interest to Jonsonians — including books, articles, films, recordings and pedagogical aids — will be available on the internet at little or no price.

    Jonson himself, who eagerly embraced relatively new media in his own day including printed books and the professional theatre would surely embrace such an ideal if he could be with us here and now to do so. Douglas A. Loxley, pp. McEvoy, pp. Sullivan, Jr.

    New York: Oxford University Press , pp. Brandie R. Perceptions of the City in Literature, ed. Valeria Tinkler-Villani Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. Brewer, , pp. Celia R. MacDonald P. New York: Pantheon, , p. Robert A. Takashi Kozuka and J. Mulryne Aldershot: Ashgate, , pp. James P. Mark Crane et al. Stephanie Moss and Kaara L.

    Peterson Aldershot: Ashgate, , pp. Mathew R. For a similar point, see Frederic V. Martin, pp. Bogel also comments on the ambiguities and ambivalences of the conclusion p. Hiscock, p. Maus, p. Maus, pp. Moulton, pp. Moulton, p. See also Vol. Brooks Aldershot: Ashgate, , pp. See also pp. Alison V. Alan C. This last web site is especially interesting since it contains a video clip. Phyllis T. Gerald Bordman and Thomas S. New York: Oxford University Press, , pp.

    • Ben Jonson: A Collection of Critical Essays.
    • Essay on Ben Jonson's Volpone - A New Form of Comedy;
    • Volpone Summary and Analysis of the Argument and the Prologue!
    • the day i will never forget essay in afrikaans!
    • Volpone: A Critical Guide;

    John Russell Brown London: Routledge, , pp. Dominic Shellard London: Nick Hern, , p. Thomas S. Anthony D. Hill and Douglas Q. Don B. Wilmeth, 2nd edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , p. The director Roger J. Porter describes the disappointment of one dwarf whom Porter at first rejected as too tall to have a role in the play; see Self-same Songs: Autobiographical Performances and Reflections Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, , p.

    For two references to televised productions, including one in starring McKern, see Horace Newcomb, ed. Vols New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, , pp. Morley, ed. Brian Woolland Aldershot: Ashgate, , 93—; see esp. Hume and Harold Love, ed. See also John J. For briefer commentary on the revival, see Amy M. Additional information about the opera can be found quite easily on the Internet; much of it is surveyed by Melton.

    The double-CD recording of a live performance of the opera was released in the summer of ; it includes the full libretto. New York: Routledge, , pp. On Applebaum, see Walter G. Parker, rev. Watson, ed. Roma Gill, rev. Nowhere in his opening epistle does Jonson construe the printed version of Volpone as a stable and authoritative text that compensates for the liability of performance.

    Account Options

    In fact, the opposite is true. Print, in this instance, did not negate but re-mediate performance. Fusing both productions, Jonson describes his play as a poem-inpresentation, a work of art enacted before spectators whose appreciation 86 VOLPONE is crucial to its reception. All one has to do to discover this is just open the quarto.

    Volpone essays and criticism

    It is unfortunate, however, that we know so little about these two performances that Jonson recalls with such affection in both the first quarto of and the First Folio of which eliminates the commendatory poems. He seems to imply that these productions were sponsored by the universities, but this does not seem to have been the case.

    There were, however, two reasons why Jonson might have felt justified in acknowledging their largesse, even though Volpone was probably neither sponsored by the universities nor presented on their property. And second, the performances at Oxford and Cambridge were probably so well attended by gownsmen that Jonson construed their presence as a synecdoche for both institutions. Here, the suburb of Southwark is upgraded to the city of London, and the towns of Cambridge and Oxford or their suburbs become proxies for the universities they adjoin.

    It is no coincidence that Cecil, at whose request James signed the letter of authorization, was the chancellor of Cambridge from to Yet enforcement remained selective. So that when Jonson published a revised version of Sejanus in as a single-authored play with scholarly annotations, print certainly provided him with a welcome alternative to performance.

    Because just as the theatrical failure of Sejanus prompted Jonson to savour the solace of print, the success of Volpone encouraged him to conceive of its publication as a printed memento of ideal productions that had verified its value as literature and his status as a laureate poet. But in the epistle to Volpone, Jonson, on the contrary, construes theatrical success as a sign of literary investiture. Yet in thy praise let this be read: The Fox will live, when all his hounds be dead.

    And insofar as it helps to emphasize the intricate interlacement of poems and plays in their work, this nomenclature has had a salutary effect on contemporary scholarship. But just as he could not be blamed for how bad most drama had become, neither should he be held responsible for the absurd notion that his work contained covert satirical attacks on contemporary individuals, societies or nations. He was innocent on both counts, he insists, and his play deserved to be taken on its own merits. First, as we have seen, the Volpone quarto of does not repudiate performance.

    James D. These so-called laws of dramatic composition became touchstones of theatrical reform that allied the poet with the most respected contemporary literary criticism. And the law of persons was grounded in his division of tragedy and comedy along class lines.

    Unlike the laws of time and persons, however, there is no mention of a law of place in The Poetics. This law was a sixteenthcentury rule popularized by Ludovico Castelvetro, who insisted that time and place should be jointly controlled by dramatists in order to increase the credibility of acted events. Volpone has the sternest ending of any Jonson comedy: the eponymous trickster-villain is sentenced to end his life in a hospital for incurable 96 VOLPONE diseases and his accomplice Mosca is condemned to the galleys.

    According to Jonson, however, deliberate violation of the rules could be justified by a poet who had a more important goal: to vindicate theatre. He will, he tells readers, keep or break any law that does not meet his needs, in the service of higher principles. In defending Sejanus, Jonson had previously admitted that there too he had written an irregular drama that was susceptible to attack, in this case because he had disregarded the law of time and omitted the chorus: First, if it be objected, that what I publish is no true Poem; in the strict Laws of Time.

    I confess it: as also in the want of a proper Chorus, whose Habit, and Moods are such, and so difficult, as not any, whom I have seen since the Ancients, no, not they who have most presently affected Laws have yet come in the way of. Nor is it needful, or almost possible, in these our Times, and to such Auditors, as commonly things are presented, to observe the old state, and splendor of Dramatic Poems, with preservation of any popular delight.

    Jonson never answered these questions, although in the earlier play he had promised to clarify his position further in a now lost treatise entitled Obervations upon Horace his Art of Poetry. Yet all of this consequently produces a strangely arbitrary sense of what it means to obey a literary law. As perhaps the best-known and most-studied work in the canon of Shakespeare's leading contemporary rival, Ben Jonson's "Volpone" is a particularly important play for thinking about early modern drama as a whole.

    This guide offers students an introduction to its critical and performance history, including recent versions on stage and screen. It includes a keynote chapter outlining major areas of current research on the play and four new critical essays presenting contrasting critical approaches focusing on literary intertextuality; performance studies; political history; and broader social history. Finally, a guide to critical, web-based and production-related resources and an annotated bibliography provide a basis for further individual research.

    Each guide introduces the text's critical and performance history but also provides students with an invaluable insight into the landscape of current scholarly research through a keynote essay on the state of the art and newly commissioned essays of fresh research from different critical perspectives.

    It considers the play both as a literary text and as a performance piece, covering its history on the stage and in critical commentary, and so illuminating the current state of scholarship on this most provocative and ambiguous of plays. The well-balanced essays are not afraid to disagree with each other and repeatedly point us towards exciting new questions about a play which is all too often castrated by being labelled a "classic.

    Future study of Volpone starts here. Steggle's collection confirms the power and wit of Jonson's most enduring stage comedy. The Sixteenth Century Journal.

    chaopresintanso.tk Added to basket. A View from the Bridge. Arthur Miller. The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams. The Sonnets and a Lover's Complaint. William Shakespeare. The Three Theban Plays.