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Flashcards in Ben Jonson Deck (75):

Ben Jonson's birth and death:

1572, 1637


Ben Jonson wrote Volpone in



Ben Jonson the first playwright to

edit, collect, and publish his own plays


Unlike Shakespeare, we have Jonson's

dedications, cast lists, epistles, arguments, summaries, and marginal notes


Jonson's first folio published



Jonson's 1616 folio opens with a picture ...?

a mausoleum style monument instead of a portrait


Jonson's 1616 folio included plays, which was

not standard practice (i.e. folios with plays)


Jonson's 1616 folio includes a series of figures including

all genres of drama with tragicomedy at the very top


Jonson's 1616 folio includes Apollo ...?

Apollo (poetry) and Dionysus (drama)


Jonson's 1616 folio includes an image of an "ancient..." with an Elizabethan tiring house


Why is Volpone set in Venice instead of London?

Jonson needs to get out of politics--he is imprisoned (in 1605) after gunpowder plot


Volpone is targeting

London and rising capitalist values among other things


Cambridge and Oxford give Ben Jonson

honorary degrees


Cambridge and Oxford provided Jonson with an audience (for Volpone) that could

appreciate the play's classicism


Volpone might be particularly pleasurable to young scholars because

the con man (learned and witty) is just a scholar that hasn't been neutered by his aristocratic position


The printed edition of Volpone is dedicated to

Oxford and Cambridge audiences


The genre of Volpone best descriped as

a mixture between 1. city comedy (attacks London though set in Venice, satirical, employs "deeds and language such as men do use") and 2. beast fable


Volpone hearkens to what medieval figure? Describe figure

Reynard the Fox, a medieval allegorical figure occurring in the folklore of several countries (especially 12th century French and Dutch stories). An anthropomorphic fox & a trickster. In some version, commits rape, deceives a crow, stands trial.


What classical satirist does Volpone channel, and how?

Lucian; rich old man playing with moneygrubbing scoundrels who want an inheritance--apparently very Lucian-esque..


Volpone opens with an epistle that

sets up the moral stakes of the play [based on classical dramatic standards--a moral statement to be taken seriously despite the laughter]


The acrostic of Volpone's name at the beginning of the play explains the plot and

indicates Volpone as a signifier or representation


The prologue of Volpone emphasizes:

contemporaneity ("according to the palates of the season") speed of composition ("And though he dares give them five lives to mend it, / Tis known, five weeks fully penned it") and classical unities ("The laws of time, place, persons he observeth, / From no needful rule he swerveth."


In Volpone's prologue, Jonson says his purpose with the play, as with his poetry, has been [to "mix...]

to "mix profit with your pleasure." Moral edification with enjoyment, and all this captured by the irony of profit's double sense. Cf. Byron's Don Juan.


Analyze Mosca's soliloquoy in Act 3, scene 1

He is neither the kind of fraud that knows how to beg or con a meal, nor the kind of court sycophant "that can fawn and fleer, / Make their revenue out of legs and faces." He is the truly mobile parasite who can "Turn short as doth a swallow, and be here / And there and here and yonder all at once, Present to any humor, all occasion, / And change a visor swifter than a thought!" He has "had the art born with him"--he is in some ways the ideal actor. He is exulting in his power, aware that he's on the rise.


Volpone and his toadies speak with the voice of

early modern capitalism. They want the best in the world; they want control over all of it


If Jonson is a realist who writes city comedies, why the fable names for his characters?

The characters are meant to be predictable--allegorical types. The characters have no past, like Shakespeare's. They are all in the present.


The character Volpone enters the play with an ode to

money; "Good morning to the day, and next, my gold!"


The character Volpone dissembles as

Mountebank Scoto Mantuano


In Volpone, Voltore is

a lawyer (vulture)


In Volpone, Corbaccio is

an avaricious old gentleman (raven)


In Volpone, Corvino is

a merchant (crow)


In Volpone, Celia is

Corvino's wife, a beautiful woman Volpone tries to rape


Sir Politic Would-Be is... (and is based on...)

a ridiculous Englishman in Volpone. Probably based partly on Sir Henry Wotton and partly on the traveller, Anthony Shirley."


In Volpone, Sir Politic Would-Be says, "To a wise man...

...all the world's his soil."


In Volpone, Sir Politic Would-Be keeps a journal including

ridiculous things like where he pisses; "Sir, I do slip no action of my life, thus but I quote it."


In Volpone, Lady Would-Be (the parrot) is very well

read. Has a lengthy conversation with Volpone about ancient Greek and Roman writers, as well as modern ones (Montaigne, Petrarch)


In Volpone, Peregrine is

an Englishman and a traveler, more sophisticated than Sir Politic Would-Be


In Volpone, Nano is

a dwarf and a companion to Volpone


In Volpone, Androgyno is

a hermaphrodite and a companion to Volpone


In Volpone, Castrone is

a eunuch and a companion to Volpone


In Volpone, the Avocatori are

the judges of Venice


In terms of character, Jonson favors

the schemer, the con man, the clever villain.


In one of Jonson's early plays, "The Devil is an Ass," the Devil

comes to earth and gets conned by diabolical humans


Volpone, like Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, is structured

in a modular way, featuring two central characters and all the episodes and characters that can be thrown at them


Volpone is set in ___, which is associated with

Venice; greed and corruption


"No amends." "What? Mends he?" "No sir, he is rather worse." "That's well." Analyze

Volpone: conversation between Mosca and Corbaccio. Some word play.


The thesis for Jonson's Volpone may be summarized by what couplet from the play?

"Mischiefs feed / like beasts till they be fat, and then they bleed"


Finish quote, name the work and the theme: "What a rare punishment... avarice to itself." Volpone; greed


Finish quote, name the work and the theme. Celia: "If thou has conscience," Volpone:

"Tis the beggar's virtue." Volpone. Protocapitalist cut-throat self interest and greed


Finish quote, name the work and the theme: "Thou art virtue, fame,

honor and all things else!" Volpone. Part of Volpone's ode to gold--greed and capitalism


In Volpone, Jonson seems torn between celebrating and decrying

the rise of capitalism (cf. wolf of wall street)


Mosca: "Was it not carried learnedly?" Volpone:

"Good wits are greatest in extremities."


Analyze Volpone Act 1, scene 2--farcical interlude by Nano, Androgyno, and Castrone--"For know here is enclosed the soul of Pythagoras, / That juggler divine . . . Which soul (fast and loose, sir) came first from Apollo, / And was breathed into Aethalides, Murcurius his son, / Where it had the gift to remember all that ever was done."

Aethalides, herald of teh Greek Argonauts, inherited father's gift of memory--his soul can recall its transmigrations. Like Mosca's soliloquoy in 3.1, there is an awareness of the mobility, here. KT Hermes Psychopompos, transmigration, dissembling, (interlude)


In Volpone 1.2, farcical Aethalides interlude--analyze. Nano: "but I / Would ask how of late thou has suffered translation, / And shifted thy coat in these days of reformation?" Androgyno: "Like one of the reformed, a fool, as you see, / Counting all old doctrine heresy."

The irony of counting old doctrine heresy when he can recollect his transmigrations. Puritanism (Jonson Catholic at this time) is a new face on an old mobility


Discuss performance and metatheatricality in Volpone

Mosca as artist and Volpone as patron: "Mosca, hearty thanks for thy quick fiction and delivery of me."

Volpone's performance as Scoto Mantuano the "Quacksalver"--like Chaucer's pardoner. "Oh health! Health! The blessing of the rich! The riches of the poor!"

Peregrin on Sir Would-Be: "Were he well known would be a precious thing to fit our English stage; he that should write but such a fellow, should be thought to feign extremely, if not maliciously."


Finish quote, name the play and speaker, and analyze: "Were he well known would be a precious thing to fit our English stage; he that should write but such a fellow, should be thought

to feign extremely, if not maliciously." Volpone. Peregrine speaking of Sir Would-Be. Depending on whether "feign" or "extremely" is emphasized, we get different readings. Emphasizing "feign" indicates feigning is the unexpected ingredient. Emphasizing "extremely" takes feigning for granted and hashes out merely the manner of feigning. Either one is read in context of Would-Be on the "English stage." To feign in a bad way--because he's a bad actor? Or because he's too good an actor? What is malicious feigning?


Name play, speaker, and brief context: "Did e'er man haste so for his horns?"

Volpone; Volpone says this of Corvino, willing to sell his wife for gold


In Volpone, Corvino makes much of Celia's action, ____. This action alludes to what?

throwing a handkerchief; Othello--Desdemona's imagined infidelity.


After the handkerchief episode, what is the significance of Corvino making Celia not only stay away from windows and stay home from church, but do everything backwards?



Read the quote; name the play, the speaker, some context, very brief analysis: "Men of your large profession, that could speak / To every cause, and things mere contraries, / Till they were hoarse again, yet all be law; / That with most quick agility could turn / And re-turn, make knots and undo them, / Give forked counsel, take provoking gold / On either hand, and put it up..."

Volpone; Mosca to Voltore about lawyers. "Large" meaning expansive, liberal, with suggestion of "unscrupulous." Able to make opposite harmonize in terms of the law.


Name play and context, brief analysis: "Let me embrace thee. O, that I could now transform thee to a Venus."

Volpone; Volpone to Mosca; my guess: conjuring Marlowe's Mephistopheles?


Jonson's relationship with Shakespeare and Donne

he admired both writers and (per Norton) belonged to *both* their worlds more than any other Jacobean writer. In publishing his "Works," he laid claim to higher literary status.


Ben Jonson's beginnings were



Ben Jonson is an extraordinary case of self-



Ben Jonson was imprisoned in 1597 for what, in his play The Isle of Dogs? The play was coauthored by? Shortly after his release he was imprisoned again, this time for killing a fellow actor in a duel, but escaped the gallows by pleading benefit of clergy. What is this?

"Leude and mutynou behaviour"; Thomas Nashe; a medieval privilege exempting felons who could read Latin from the death penalty.


When did Ben Jonson convert to Catholicism?

In his first imprisonment (for The Isle of Dogs).


Jonson's fortunes improved with the accession of James I, though not at once. In 1603 he was called before the Privy Council on charges of what?

"Popery and treason" in his play Sejanus.


In what year was Jonson (briefly) imprisoned for the third time, and for what?

1605; anti-Scottish sentiment in the play Eastward Ho, which mocked the kings Scots accent and tendency to sell knighthoods.


Jonson's Every Man in His Humour capitalized on the vogue for humorous plays started by An Humorous Day's Mirth, by whom? What play did this writer later collaborate on with Jonson, landing both men in jail?

George Chapman; Eastward Ho


Who wrote Every Man in His Humour, what year was it produced, and what famous writer was among the first to be cast? What is Every Man out of His Humour?

Ben Jonson; 1598; William Shakespeare; a pedantic imitation of Aristophanes, popular at the time.


At the turn of the century Ben Jonson became embroiled in

the War of the Theatres, in which he satirized and was satirized by his fellow playwrights John Marston and Thomas Dekker.


Ben Jonson's long partnership with Inigo Jones was marked by ever more bitter rivalry over

the relative importance of words and scenery in the masques they worked on.


Who were the "Sons of Ben"?

Admirers of Ben Jonson including Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, and Sir John Suckling.


Volpone was first performed when, where, and by whom?

1606; Globe Theater; Shakespeare's company, the King's Men


Volpone was first published in quarto form a year after it was first performed. What year? When did it appear in Folio with a few changes?

1607; 1616