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In this course, Professor Matthew Steggle explores Ben Jonson's early 17th-century comedy Volpone. The course begins by thinking about the setting of the play in Venice, and what associations that city might have evoked for Jonson's original audience. After that, in the second module, we think about Volpone's scam, focusing in particular on its legality, its language and its tone. In the third and fourth modules, we focus on two major characters in the play: Celia, the wife of the merchant Corvino, in the third module, and Mosca, Volpone's servant – or is he a slave? – in the fourth. And in the fifth module, we think about the ending of the play in which the court deals out the various punishments and rewards for how the characters have acted in the play – but do each of the characters get what they deserve?
In this module, we provide a brief introduction to Ben Jonson, before considering his decision to set the play in Venice. In particular, we think about the historical Venice, but also its status as a city of paradoxes: a city of great wealth but no land, of good government but cruel punishments, and of liberty and slavery.
Sheffield Hallam University