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Several Essays on Literary Works

1. A.C. Baugh notes with reference to Every Man in His Humour how Ben Jonson accepted the conventions of Italian comedy on the surface while producing comedy that involved "a keen analysis of contemporary English society" (p. 559). Baugh identifies Volpone as a "magnificent if rather dreadful comedy" (p. 562) and says that it is based on Jonson's views of the enormities of ancient Rome: "The character symbolism peculiar to humor comedy is here intensified by imitating the method of the beast-fable, which taught how human types could be caricatured by representing them as animals" (p. 562). This element is also derived from the Italian commedia dell'arte tradition. An examination of the play shows how Jonson utilized these traditions in commenting on his contemporary society. Baugh believes that Jonson was not successful in making the contemporary connection necessary to address the issues of the seventeenth century, but many other readers and critics have found otherwise.

Abrams cites a number of the traditional conventions that Jonson utilizes to good advantage in Volpone. He finds that the medieval legend of Reynard the Fox has been incorporated into the pervasive animal imagery also noted by Baugh, with Volpone as the Fox and Mosca as the Fly. The author also cites classical antecedents for Jonson's biting satire. The underlying theme is an ancient one as well--the love of money is the root of all evil--and Abrams finds that for Jonson this becomes a comment on contemporary commercial society as it was developing in the seventeenth century. He states that for Jonson "the commercializing of life that began with the rise of a money economy and the development of an ethic dominated by self-interest" (p. 114). For Jonson, it is not merely the greedy individual who is at fault but the laws that support the greedy. As Abrams states: ". . . Jonson's vigorous social morality would not have rejected the implication that what Ven...

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Several Essays on Literary Works. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:19, June 26, 2019, from