An illustration for an 1898 edition of Volpone by Aubrey Beardsley. 06, drawing on elements of city comedy and beast fable. Volpone ben jonson full text pdf partly based on Sir Henry Wotton, and partly on the traveller, Anthony Shirley.
In their turns, each man arrives to Volpone’s house bearing a luxurious gift, intent upon having his name inscribed to the will of Volpone, as his heir. To Volpone, Mosca mentions that Corvino has a beautiful wife, Celia. Disguised as Scoto the Mountebank, Volpone goes to see Celia. Mosca deceives Corvino into believing that the moribund Volpone will be cured of his illness if he lies in bed beside a young woman. Just before Corvino and Celia are due to arrive at Volpone’s house, Corbaccio’s son Bonario arrives to catch his father in the act of disinheriting him.
Mosca guides Bonario to a sideroom, and Volpone and Celia are left alone. Upon failing to seduce Celia with fantastic promises of luxury and wealth, Volpone attempts to rape her. Bonario comes forward to rescue Celia. There are 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 Politick by telling him he is to be arrested for sedition and making him hide inside a giant tortoise shell. Volpone insists on disguising himself and having it announced that he has died and willed his wealth to Mosca, which enrages the would-be heirs Voltore, Corbaccio and Corvino, and everyone returns to court to dispute the will of Volpone, who becomes entangled in the circumstances of the plots that he and Mosca devised. The play appeared in quarto in early 1607, printed by George Eld for publisher Thomas Thorpe. The play premiered at the Globe Theatre in Spring 1606. It was performed by the King’s Men, but casting is uncertain. After the Restoration, the play enjoyed a lengthy prominence: John Genest records over fifty performances before 1770.
John Evelyn saw it performed at the court of Charles II on 16 October 1662. The play continued in performance throughout the 18th century. Richard Steele mentions a performance in a 1709 edition of Tatler. Yeats was in the audience and mentions the production approvingly in a letter to Allan Wade. A 1938 production introduced two of the dominant elements of twentieth-century productions: the performance of Donald Wolfit and animal imagery.
The play has since been staged by a number of famous companies. In 1972, the play was staged at the Bristol Old Vic. Michael Gambon and Simon Russell Beale. Volpone was adapted by Jules Romains and Stefan Zweig in their 1928 production, with the ending changed so that Mosca ends up with Volpone’s money.
In 1941 a French film version was released, under the direction of noted filmmaker Maurice Tourneur. Begun in 1938 by Jacques de Baroncelli, the production shut down because of financial difficulties. Tourneur took over and the shooting resumed in 1940. This version also used portions of the adaptation by Romains and Zweig. An adaptation by Alphons Silbermann ran at the Independent Theatre, Sydney from 3 April to 21 June 1947. A short-lived 1964 Broadway musical adaptation entitled Foxy moved the play’s setting to the Yukon during the gold rush of 1898.