Friday, March 13, 2009

Use Your Allusion: Volpone

Volpone is a character in a comedy by Ben Johnson of the same name, originally printed in 1607.

Volpone is a childless man, and he manages to draw some attention to himself by pretending that he is imminently about to die, and is therefore seeking an heir.

Several suitors show up, and visit his bedside. Volpone's sidekick is named Mosca. Mosca secretly convinces each of these suitors that if he gives Volpone an expensive suitable gift, then it is certain that he will become the heir.

Volpone gloats over the great gifts he starts receiving, but since Mosca has integrity as lacking as that of Volpone, it is only a matter of time before Mosca tries to blackmail Volpone out of his treasures. Volpone decides to confess to the authorities and have both of them be punished, rather than see Mosca take away his fortune.

This is not a character I've seen alluded to often, but it is an amusing story. You could definitely use this of someone who is a hypochondriac, who looks to get special treatment and attention from people disproportionate to how ill they actually are. In fact, you could call them "Volpone", and it's unlikely they'd even know what you meant!


  1. You should do one on Falstaff. He's pretty big (ha ha).

  2. Let me make that about to happen!