Volpone
Overview
Volpone is a comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 by Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 first produced in 1606, drawing on elements of city comedy
City comedy
City comedy, also called Citizen Comedy, is a common genre of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline comedy on the London stage from the last years of the 16th century to the closing of the theaters in 1642...

, black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 and beast fable
Beast fable
The beast fable or beast epic, usually a short story or poem in which animals talk, is a traditional form of allegorical writing. It is a type of fable in which human behaviour and weaknesses are subject to scrutiny by reflection into the animal kingdom....

. A merciless satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 of greed and lust, it remains Jonson's most-performed play, and it is among the finest Jacobean comedies.
  • Volpone (the Big Fox) – a greedy, childless Venetian nobleman
  • Mosca (the Fly) – his servant
  • Voltore (the Vulture) – a lawyer
  • Corbaccio (the Raven) – an avaricious old miser
  • Bonario – Corbaccio's son
  • Corvino (the Carrion Crow) – a merchant
  • Celia – Corvino's wife
  • Sir Politic Would-Be – ridiculous Englishman.
Encyclopedia
Volpone is a comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 by Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 first produced in 1606, drawing on elements of city comedy
City comedy
City comedy, also called Citizen Comedy, is a common genre of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline comedy on the London stage from the last years of the 16th century to the closing of the theaters in 1642...

, black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 and beast fable
Beast fable
The beast fable or beast epic, usually a short story or poem in which animals talk, is a traditional form of allegorical writing. It is a type of fable in which human behaviour and weaknesses are subject to scrutiny by reflection into the animal kingdom....

. A merciless satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 of greed and lust, it remains Jonson's most-performed play, and it is among the finest Jacobean comedies.

Characters

  • Volpone (the Big Fox) – a greedy, childless Venetian nobleman
  • Mosca (the Fly) – his servant
  • Voltore (the Vulture) – a lawyer
  • Corbaccio (the Raven) – an avaricious old miser
  • Bonario – Corbaccio's son
  • Corvino (the Carrion Crow) – a merchant
  • Celia – Corvino's wife
  • Sir Politic Would-Be – ridiculous Englishman. Probably partly based on Sir Henry Wotton
    Henry Wotton
    Sir Henry Wotton was an English author and diplomat. He is often quoted as saying, "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." -Life:The son of Thomas Wotton , brother of Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton, and grandnephew of the diplomat...

    , and partly on the traveller, Anthony Shirley
    Anthony Shirley
    Sir Anthony Shirley was an English traveller, whose imprisonment in 1603 by King James I was an important event because it caused the British House of Commons to assert one of its privileges—freedom of its members from arrest—in a document known as The Form of Apology and Satisfaction.He was the...

    .
  • Lady Would-Be (the parrot) – English lady and wife of Sir Politic-Would-Be
  • Peregrine – another, more sophisticated, English traveller
  • Nano – a dwarf, companion of Volpone
  • Androgyno – a hermaphrodite
    Hermaphrodite
    In biology, a hermaphrodite is an organism that has reproductive organs normally associated with both male and female sexes.Many taxonomic groups of animals do not have separate sexes. In these groups, hermaphroditism is a normal condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both...

    , companion of Volpone
  • Castrone – a eunuch
    Eunuch
    A eunuch is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences...

    , companion of Volpone
  • The Avocatori – the judges of Venice

Plot summary

Volpone, a Venetian gentleman, is pretending to be on his deathbed after a long illness in order to dupe Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino, who aspire to his fortune. They each arrive in turn, bearing extravagant gifts with the aim of being inscribed as Volpone's heir. Mosca, Volpone's assistant, encourages them, making each of them believe that he has been named in the will, and getting Corbaccio to disinherit his son in favour of Volpone.

Mosca mentions in passing that Corvino has a beautiful wife, Celia, and Volpone goes to see her in the disguise of Scoto the Mountebank. Corvino drives him away, but Volpone is now insistent that he must have Celia for his own. Mosca tells Corvino that Volpone requires sex with a young woman to help revive him, and will be very grateful to whoever provides the lady. Corvino offers Celia.

Just before Corvino and Celia are due to arrive for this tryst to take place, Corbaccio's son Bonario arrives to catch his father in the act of disinheriting him. Mosca ushers him into a sideroom. Volpone is left alone with Celia, and after failing to seduce her with promises of luxurious items and role-playing fantasies, attempts to rape her. Bonario sees this, comes out of hiding and rescues Celia. However, in the ensuing courtroom sequence, the truth is well-buried by the collusion of Mosca, Volpone and all three of the dupes.

Volpone now insists on disguising himself as an officer and having it announced that he has died and left all his wealth to Mosca. This enrages Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino, and everyone returns to court. Despite Volpone's pleas, Mosca refuses to give up his wealthy new role, and Volpone decides to reveal himself in order to take Mosca down with him. They, Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino are punished.

This main plot is interspersed with episodes involving the English travellers Sir and Lady Politic Would-Be and Peregrine. Sir Politic constantly talks of plots and his outlandish business plans, while Lady Would-Be annoys Volpone with her ceaseless talking. Mosca co-ordinates a mix-up between them which leaves Peregrine, a more sophisticated traveller, feeling offended. He humiliates Sir Politic by telling him he is to be arrested for sedition, and making him hide inside a giant tortoise shell.

There is a school of thought that, like another of Jonson's works, The Alchemist
The Alchemist (play)
The Alchemist is a comedy by English playwright Ben Jonson. First performed in 1610 by the King's Men, it is generally considered Jonson's best and most characteristic comedy; Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed that it had one of the three most perfect plots in literature...

, all the action in Volpone takes place over a single 24 hour period; this would be in accordance with the contemporary understanding of the dramatic unities, which Jonson claims to adhere to in the play's Prologue.

Text

The play appeared in quarto
Book size
The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from "folio" , to "quarto" and "octavo"...

 in early 1607, printed by George Eld
George Eld
George Eld was a London printer of the Jacobean era, who produced important works of English Renaissance drama and literature, including key texts by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Middleton....

 for publisher Thomas Thorpe
Thomas Thorpe
Thomas Thorpe was an English publisher, most famous for publishing Shakespeare's sonnets and several works by Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. His publication of the sonnets has long been controversial...

. The quarto contains Jonson's dedication to Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 and Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, as well as a great number of commendatory verses, in English and Latin, by fellow-poets such as Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont was a dramatist in the English Renaissance theatre, most famous for his collaborations with John Fletcher....

 and John Fletcher
John Fletcher (playwright)
John Fletcher was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivalled Shakespeare's...

. Its next appearance was in the folio
Book size
The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from "folio" , to "quarto" and "octavo"...

 of 1616, and the latter, presumably having been subject to Jonson's careful review, forms the basis of most modern editions.

Productions

The play premiered at the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

 in Spring 1606
1606 in literature
The year 1606 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May 27 - The English Parliament passes An Act to Restrain Abuses of Players, which tightens the censorship controls on public theatre performances, most notably on the question of profane oaths.*December 26 - Shakespeare's King...

. It was performed by the King's Men, but casting is uncertain. John Lowin
John Lowin
John Lowin was an English actor born in the St Giles-without-Cripplegate, London, the son of a tanner. Like Robert Armin, he was apprenticed to a goldsmith. While he is not recorded as a free citizen of this company, he did perform as a goldsmith, Leofstane, in a 1611 city pageant written by...

 may have performed the title role, as he is associated with the role in James Wright's Historia Histrionica
Historia Histrionica
Historia Histrionica is a 1699 literary work by James Wright , on the subject of theatre in England in the seventeenth century. It is an essential resource for information on the actors and theatrical life of the period, providing data available nowhere else.The work's full title is Historia...

(1699). William Gifford
William Gifford
William Gifford was an English critic, editor and poet, famous as a satirist and controversialist.-Life:Gifford was born in Ashburton, Devonshire to Edward Gifford and Elizabeth Cain. His father, a glazier and house painter, had run away as a youth with vagabond Bampfylde Moore Carew, and he...

 hypothesized that Alexander Cooke
Alexander Cooke
Alexander Cooke was an actor in the King's Men, the acting company of William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage.Edmond Malone introduced the hypothesis, still current though far from certain, that Cooke originated Shakespeare's principal female roles...

 may have played Lady Would-be. Either that summer or the next, an outbreak of plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 closed the London theatres, and the company performed the play at Oxford and Cambridge. Jonson may have added the first act's satire on Pythagoras
Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him...

 for these audiences. The play certainly remained in the King's Men's repertoire throughout the period. It was performed for Charles
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 in 1624 while he was still Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales is a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the 15 other independent Commonwealth realms...

, in 1630, and again at the Cockpit-in-Court
Cockpit-in-Court
The Cockpit-in-Court was an early theatre in London, located at the rear of the Palace of Whitehall, next to St...

 in 1637.

After the Restoration, the play enjoyed a lengthy prominence: John Genest
John Genest
-Life:He was the son of John Genest of Dunker's Hill, Devon. He was educated at Westminster School, entered 9 May 1780 as a pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. 1784 and M.A. 1787. He took holy orders, and was for many years curate of a Lincolnshire village...

 records over fifty performances before 1770. John Evelyn saw it performed at the court of Charles II on October 16, 1662. When the theatres reopened, the play was owned by the King's Men of Thomas Killigrew
Thomas Killigrew
Thomas Killigrew was an English dramatist and theatre manager. He was a witty, dissolute figure at the court of King Charles II of England.-Life and work:...

; it was performed at Drury Lane
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a West End theatre in Covent Garden, in the City of Westminster, a borough of London. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663,...

 in 1663. Michael Mohun
Michael Mohun
Michael Mohun was a leading British actor both before and after the 1642—60 closing of the theatres.Mohun began his stage career as a boy player filling female roles; he was part of Christopher Beeston's theatrical establishment at the Cockpit Theatre, "eventually becoming a key member of Queen...

 played Volpone to Hart's
Charles Hart (17th-century actor)
Charles Hart was a prominent British Restoration actor.A Charles Hart was christened on 11 December 1625, in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, in London. It is not absolutely certain that this was the actor, though the name was not common at the time...

 Mosca; Katherine Corey
Katherine Corey
Katherine Corey was an English actress of the Restoration era, one of the first generation of female performers to appear on the public stage in Britain. Corey played with the King's Company and the United Company, and had one of the longest careers of any actress in her generation...

 played Celia, and Rebecca Marshall
Rebecca Marshall
Rebecca Marshall was a noted English actress of the Restoration era, one of the first generation of women performers on the public stage in Britain...

 played Lady Would-be. The same cast was seen by Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

 in 1665.

The play continued in performance throughout the 18th century. Richard Steele
Richard Steele
Sir Richard Steele was an Irish writer and politician, remembered as co-founder, with his friend Joseph Addison, of the magazine The Spectator....

 mentions a performance in a 1709 edition of Tatler
Tatler
Tatler has been the name of several British journals and magazines, each of which has viewed itself as the successor of the original literary and society journal founded by Richard Steele in 1709. The current incarnation, founded in 1901, is a glossy magazine published by Condé Nast Publications...

. Famous eighteenth-century Volpones included James Quin
James Quin
James Quin was an English actor of Irish descent.Quin was born in London. He was educated at Dublin, and probably spent a short time at Trinity College....

; famous Moscas included Charles Macklin
Charles Macklin
Charles Macklin , originally Cathal MacLochlainn , was an actor and dramatist born in Culdaff, a village on the scenic Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. He was one of the most distinguished actors of his day, equally in tragedy and comedy...

. Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style...

 played Corvino in his productions; his wife Katherine Shore played Celia, as later did Elizabeth Inchbald
Elizabeth Inchbald
Elizabeth Inchbald was an English novelist, actress, and dramatist.- Life :Born on 15 October 1753 at Standingfield, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Elizabeth was the eighth of the nine children of John Simpson , a farmer, and his wife Mary, née Rushbrook. The family, like several others in the...

. As with many other Jacobean plays, Volpone had lost its appeal before the end of the 18th century. Earlier in the century, critics had complained about the improbability of the fifth act, frequently likened to farce, and to Jonson's highly Latinate language. An updated version by George Colman the Elder
George Colman the Elder
George Colman was an English dramatist and essayist, usually called "the Elder", and sometimes "George the First", to distinguish him from his son, George Colman the Younger....

 failed at Drury Lane in 1771. Bythe end of the century, the objections appeared insurmountable to producers, and the play fell into disuse.

The play was revived by the Phoenix Society at the Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Hammersmith
The Lyric Theatre, also known as the Lyric Hammersmith, is a theatre on King Street, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which takes pride in its original, "groundbreaking" productions....

 in 1921; W. B. Yeats was in the audience and mentions the production approvingly in a letter to Allan Wade
Allan Wade
-Early life:Allan Wade was the son of the Rev. Stephen Wade of Boscastle in Cornwall and was educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton. In 1904 be went on the stage as a member of the F. R...

. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre is a theatre and theatre company based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England...

 staged the play at the Malvern
Malvern, Worcestershire
Malvern is a town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England, governed by Malvern Town Council. As of the 2001 census it has a population of 28,749, and includes the historical settlement and commercial centre of Great Malvern on the steep eastern flank of the Malvern Hills, and the former...

 Festival in 1935.

A 1938 production introduced two of the dominant elements of twentieth-century productions: the performance of Donald Wolfit
Donald Wolfit
Sir Donald Wolfit, KBE was a well-known English actor-manager.-Biography:Wolfit, who was "Woolfitt" at birth was born at New Balderton, near Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire and attended the Magnus Grammar School and made his stage début in 1920...

 and animal imagery. Wolfit's dynamic performance in the title role, repeated several times over the next decades, set the standard for modern interpretations of Volpone: Politic's plot was truncated or eliminated, and Mosca (played in 1938 by Alan Wheatley
Alan Wheatley
Alan Wheatley was a radio announcer who turned to stage and screen acting in the 1930s and was much seen in British films, being a television actor during the black and white era....

) relegated to a secondary role.

The play has since been staged by a number of famous companies. In 1952, George Devine
George Devine
George Alexander Cassady Devine CBE was an extremely influential theatrical manager, director, teacher and actor in London from the late 1940s until his death. He also worked in the media of TV and film.-Biography:...

 directed Anthony Quayle
Anthony Quayle
Sir John Anthony Quayle, CBE was an English actor and director.-Early life:Quayle was born in Ainsdale, Southport, in Lancashire to a Manx family....

 (Mosca) and Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor, one of a group of theatrical knights of the mid-20th century who, though more closely associated with the stage, also appeared in several classic films....

 (Volpone) at the Stratford Memorial Theatre. At the same theatre in 1955, Eric Porter
Eric Porter
Eric Richard Porter was an English actor of stage, film and television.-Early life:Porter was born in Shepherd's Bush, London, to Richard John Porter and Phoebe Elizabeth Spall...

 played Volpone. In 1968, Tyrone Guthrie
Tyrone Guthrie
Sir William Tyrone Guthrie was an English theatrical director instrumental in the founding of the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, at his family's home, Annaghmakerrig, in County Monaghan, Ireland.-Life and career:Guthrie...

's National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

 production emphasized the beast-fable motif; this production featured stage design by Tanya Moiseiwitsch
Tanya Moiseiwitsch
Tanya Moiseiwitsch, OC was an English theatre designer.Born in London, the daughter of Daisy Kennedy, an Australian concert violinist and Benno Moiseiwitsch, a famous Ukrainian classical pianist, she attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts...

.

In 1972, the play was staged at the Bristol Old Vic
Bristol Old Vic
The Bristol Old Vic is a theatre company based at the Theatre Royal, King Street, in Bristol, England. The theatre complex includes the 1766 Theatre Royal, which claims to be the oldest continually-operating theatre in England, along with a 1970s studio theatre , offices and backstage facilities...

. A most memorable production of the 1970s was Peter Hall's staging for the Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

 in 1974, with Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
David Paul Scofield, CH, CBE , better known as Paul Scofield, was an English actor of stage and screen...

 as Volpone, Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley, CBE is a British actor. He has won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in his career. He is known for starring as Mohandas Gandhi in the film Gandhi in 1982, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor...

 as Mosca, John Gielgud
John Gielgud
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor, director, and producer. A descendant of the renowned Terry acting family, he achieved early international acclaim for his youthful, emotionally expressive Hamlet which broke box office records on Broadway in 1937...

 as Sir Politic, and Ian Charleson
Ian Charleson
Ian Charleson was a Scottish stage and film actor. He is best known internationally for his starring role as Olympic athlete and missionary Eric Liddell, in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire. He is also well known for his portrayal of Rev...

 as Peregrine.

Matthew Warchus
Matthew Warchus
-Life:Warchus studied music and drama at Bristol University. He has directed for the National Youth Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Donmar Warehouse, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre, Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera and in the West...

 received an Olivier Award nomination for his 1995 production at the Royal National Theatre
Royal National Theatre
The Royal National Theatre in London is one of the United Kingdom's two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company...

; it featured Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Sir Michael John Gambon, CBE is an Irish actor who has worked in theatre, television and film. A highly respected theatre actor, Gambon is recognised for his roles as Philip Marlowe in the BBC television serial The Singing Detective, as Jules Maigret in the 1990s ITV serial Maigret, and as...

 and Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale, CBE is an English actor. He has been described by The Independent as "the greatest stage actor of his generation."-Early years:...

.

Adaptations

Volpone was adapted by Jules Romains
Jules Romains
Jules Romains, born Louis Henri Jean Farigoule , was a French poet and writer and the founder of the Unanimism literary movement...

 and Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.- Biography :...

 in their 1928 production, with the ending changed so that Mosca ends up with Volpone's money. This version was used by George Antheil
George Antheil
George Antheil was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author and inventor. A self-described "Bad Boy of Music", his modernist compositions amazed and appalled listeners in Europe and the US during the 1920s with their cacophonous celebration of mechanical devices.Returning permanently to...

 in his 1953 opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 Volpone
Volpone (opera)
Volpone, written in 1949–52 to a libretto by Alfred Perry based on the play by Ben Jonson, was George Antheil's third opera. It was first performed in Manhattan in 1953 at the Cherry Lane Theatre....

.

A short-lived 1964 Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 musical adaptation entitled Foxy
Foxy (musical)
Foxy is a musical with a book by Ian McLellan Hunter and Ring Lardner, Jr., lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and music by Robert Emmett Dolan.Based on Ben Jonson's Volpone, it transports the original play's setting of early-17th century Renaissance Venice to the Yukon during the gold rush of 1898...

moved the play's setting to the Yukon
Yukon
Yukon is the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories. It was named after the Yukon River. The word Yukon means "Great River" in Gwich’in....

 during the gold rush
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

 of 1898.

The stage adaptation Sly Fox
Sly Fox
Sly Fox is a comedic play by Larry Gelbart, based on Ben Jonson's Volpone , updating the setting from Renaissance Venice to 19th century San Francisco, and changing the tone from satire to farce....

, by Larry Gelbart
Larry Gelbart
Larry Simon Gelbart was an American television writer, playwright, screenwriter and author.-Early life:...

, updated the setting from Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 to 19th century San Francisco, and changed the tone from satire to farce.

The Honey Pot
The Honey Pot
The Honey Pot, also known as The Honeypot, is a 1967 crime comedy film made by Famous Artists Productions and distributed by United Artists. The film stars Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, Capucine, Edie Adams, and Maggie Smith. It was written for the screen and directed by Joseph L....

is a 1967 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph Leo Mankiewicz was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Mankiewicz had a long Hollywood career and is best known as the writer-director of All About Eve , which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six. He was brother to screenwriter and drama critic Herman J...

 based on Volpone, although with a romantic subplot and sentimental trappings. It featured Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison
Sir Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards.-Youth and stage career:...

 in the main role, Cliff Robertson
Cliff Robertson
Clifford Parker "Cliff" Robertson III was an American actor with a film and television career that spanned half of a century. Robertson portrayed a young John F. Kennedy in the 1963 film PT 109, and won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the movie Charly...

 as Mosca ("McFly"), and Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
Dame Margaret Natalie Smith, DBE , better known as Maggie Smith, is an English film, stage, and television actress who made her stage debut in 1952 and is still performing after 59 years...

 as the love interest. A portion of the original play is presented in private performance for Harrison's character, who states that it is his favourite.

In France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, there have been three further video and DVD adaptations of Volpone based on versions of the Stefan Zweig/Jules Romains script: in 1978, Jean Meyer
Jean Meyer
Doctor Jean Meyer Barth is a Mexican historian and author of French origin.Meyer obtained bachelor's and master's degrees at the Sorbonne University. He has taught at Sorbonne, Perpignan, the University of Paris, the Colegio de México, the Colegio de Michoacán, and the Centro de Investigación y...

 directed a production in the 'théâtre de boulevard' style for the Théâtre de Marigny and Panorama (Au Théâtre ce soir), starring himself as Corbaccio, Jean Le Poulain as Volpone and Francis Huster
Francis Huster
Francis Huster is a French stage, film and television actor, film director and scriptwriter.-Biography:Francis Huster was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine. He studied acting at the Conservatoire of the 17th arrondissement of Paris, at the Cours Florent and at the Conservatoire national , where he had...

 as Mosca. This was followed in 2001 by a production directed by Francis Perrin
Francis Perrin
Francis Perrin was a French physicist,the son of Nobel prize-winning physicist Jean Perrin.- Physicist :Francis Perrin was born in Paris and attended École Normale Supérieure in Paris.In 1928 he obtained a doctorate in mathematical sciences from the faculté des sciences of Paris, based upon a...

 with a script that resembles the Zweig/Romains text but rewritten in pseudo-Elizabethan style by Jean Collette and Toni Cecchinato. Bernard Haller plays the part of Volpone, Francis Perrin
Francis Perrin
Francis Perrin was a French physicist,the son of Nobel prize-winning physicist Jean Perrin.- Physicist :Francis Perrin was born in Paris and attended École Normale Supérieure in Paris.In 1928 he obtained a doctorate in mathematical sciences from the faculté des sciences of Paris, based upon a...

 plays Mosca, and Thibaut Lorain plays Lady Would-Be. In 2003, the play was rewritten for television by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a French dramatist, novelist and fiction writer. His plays have been staged in over fifty countries all over the world.- Life :...

 for a production starring Gérard Depardieu
Gérard Depardieu
Gérard Xavier Marcel Depardieu is a French actor and filmmaker. He is a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite and has twice won the César Award for Best Actor...

 as Volpone and Daniel Prévost
Daniel Prévost
Daniel Prévost is a French actor and humorist.Daniel Prevost is notably known for his part in the French television series Le Petit Rapporteur.-Early life and Family:...

 as Mosca. The ending is changed to see Volpone and Mosca escaping together with Corbaccio's wife.

In 1988 the film was adapted for Italian cinema by Maurizio Ponzi
Maurizio Ponzi
Maurizio Ponzi is an Italian film director, screenwriter and cinema critic.Born in Rome, he wrote cinema reviews in several Italian magazines during the early 1960s...

, with the title Il Volpone
Il volpone
Il volpone is an Italian movie directed in 1988 by Maurizio Ponzi, inspired by Ben Jonson's comedy with the same name.Set in the Ligurian Riviera during the 1980s, it features Paolo Villaggio as Ugo Maria Volpone, a rich but apparently ill ship company owner...

. Set in modern Liguria
Liguria
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food.-Geography:...

, it features Paolo Villaggio
Paolo Villaggio
Paolo Villaggio is an Italian actor, writer, director and comedian.-Life:Villaggio was born in Genoa in 1932. His jobs included being a clerk for the Italsider steel major which inspired his character "Il ragioniere Fantozzi Ugo", "the accountant Ugo Fantozzi"...

 as Ugo Maria Volpone and Enrico Montesano
Enrico Montesano
Enrico Montesano, born in Rome, Italy on 7 June 1945, is a popular actor for theater and cinema in Italy, as well as a showman. He starred in the 1977 film Pane, burro e marmellata and the 1978 film Le braghe del padrone, both times alongside Adolfo Celi.-Career:Montesano comes from a family...

 as Mosca.

In 2004 the Wolf Trap Opera Company
Wolf Trap Opera Company
The Wolf Trap Opera Company produces a summer opera festival as part of the program of the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia....

, Viennna, Virginia, commissioned and produced a new opera based on the play. The score was written by John Musto
John Musto
John Musto is an American composer and pianist. As a composer, he is active in opera, orchestral and chamber music, song, vocal ensemble, and solo piano works. As a pianist, he performs frequently as a soloist, alone and with orchestra, as a chamber musician, and with singers.-Career:Born in 1954...

 with libretto by Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell
Mark Joseph Campbell is a former American Football tight end who played for ten seasons in the National Football League for the Cleveland Browns from 1999–2002, the Buffalo Bills from 2003–2005, and the New Orleans Saints from 2006–2008. He was signed by the Browns as an...

. The world premiere took place at The Barns at Wolf Trap on March 10, 2004. The opera was produced again in 2007 by the Wolf Trap Opera Company with a new cast including Lisa Hopkins
Lisa Hopkins
Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller , usually credited as Lisa Hopkins, is an American classical singer and actress from Simi Valley, California. She holds a B.A. in Theater Studies and Acting from Yale University and a M.M...

. This production was recorded live at The Barns at Wolf Trap for Wolf Trap Recordings and was nominated in 2010
52nd Grammy Awards
The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards took place on January 31, 2010, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Neil Young was honored as the 2010 MusiCares Person of the Year on January 29, two days prior to the Grammy telecast. Only ten of the 109 awards were received during the broadcast...

 for a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording
Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording
The Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording has been awarded since 1961. The award was originally titled Best Classical Opera Production. The current title has been used since 1962....

.

In 2010, the play was performed at the Greenwich Theatre
Greenwich Theatre
The Greenwich Theatre is a local theatre located in Croom's Hill close to the centre of Greenwich in south-east London.-Building history:The building was originally a music hall created in 1855 as part of the neighbouring Rose and Crown public house, but the Rose and Crown Music Hall was...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, by Stage on Screen
Stage on Screen
Not to be confused with , the London-based company producing DVD versions of classic stage plays and which has produced commercial DVDs of Doctor Faustus , The School for Scandal , Volpone and The Duchess of Malfi ....

 in repertoire with The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14...

. It was directed by Elizabeth Freestone and featured Richard Bremmer
Richard Bremmer
Richard Bremmer is a British actor. He played Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and played Skeld in The 13th Warrior. He also had a role in the 2004 movie :Vipere au poing.-External links:...

 as Volpone, Mark Hadfield
Mark Hadfield
Mark Hadfield is an English actor.Before starting his professional career, Hadfield trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art .-Theatre:...

 as Mosca and Tim Treolar as Voltore. Unlike most other recent versions of the play, this followed the Jonson text and included the Sir Politic Would-Be scenes, with James Wallace
James Wallace
James Wallace may refer to:*James Wallace , English football player*James Wallace , British Member of Parliament for Horsham, Attorney-General...

 as Sir Politic and Brigid Zengeni as Lady Would-Be. The production was released on DVD.

Further reading

  • Barish, Jonas A. "The Double Plot in Volpone", Modern Philology 51.2 (1953): 83–92.
  • Barton, Anne. The Names of Comedy (Toronto & Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1990).
  • Brock, D. Heyward Brock, A Ben Jonson Companion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1983).
  • Cañadas, Ivan. "The Influence of Ben Jonson’s Volpone on Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman", ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews 19.3 (2006): 6–10.
  • Gibbons, Brian, Jacobean City Comedy: A Study of Satiric Plays by Jonson, Marston and Middleton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980).
  • Jonson, Ben. Volpone, or The Fox, in: Ben Jonson: Five Plays, Ed. G.A. Wilkes, The World's Classics (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1981; 1990).
  • ------.-- Volpone, or The Fox, in: Ben Jonson's Plays and Masques, Ed. Richard Harp, A Norton Critical Edition, 2nd Edn (New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2001).
  • Leggatt, Alexander, Citizen Comedy in the Age of Shakespeare (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973).
  • Leinwand, Theodore B. The City Staged: Jacobean Comedy, 1603–1613 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986).
  • Marchitell, Howard. "Desire and Domination in Volpone", Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 31.2 (1991): 287–308.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK