William Young 12AMP
English Literature Coursework - 'Volpone'
How far do you agree that "Volpone" is a satire on contemporary society's obsession with wealth above all else?
From the outset, I agree that 'Volpone' is a satire on contemporary society's obsession with wealth above all else. However, there are alternative critical views that should be referred to before final judgement. Jonson heavily emphasises the satirical importance of prosperity in 'Volpone'. This is evident from the opening where Volpone religiously praises his wealth. His bed is surrounded by gold, his language suggesting Roman Catholic saint-worship: "shrine", "saint", "adoration" and "relic".  Volpone states, "Good morning to the day; and next, my gold!"  The adulation of his gold is compulsive, the imagery suggesting wealth is superior (or at least comparable) to religion. We can, therefore, infer this religious theme satirises society's obsession with wealth above all else, as religion was seen to be of utmost importance in Renaissance Italy; such blasphemy would have shocked Elizabethan audiences.
Volpone's riches are paramount, as suggested by, "O thou son of Sol."  This religious connotation is a hyperbole, an overstatement for dramatisation. Volpone is telling the audience that his wealth is 'son of the sun', or alternatively Jesus. Further evidence of sacrilege is Volpone's uttering to the treasure, "even hell is made worth heaven."  He explicitly values gold above spiritual redemption. The introduction supports the interpretation that 'Volpone' is a satire on contemporary society's obsession with wealth above all else; the significance of the protagonist's riches is enunciated first and foremost, to the extent that it is even comparable to religion. In context, Venice was the seat of decadence, making it the recipient of years of stereotype in English drama.