"a Magnifico," or nobleman of Venice, the namesake of the play. Volpone is a con artist who feigns illness to attract legacy hunters. He embodies greed and obsesses over gold. His love of watching others' greed and flattery tends toward voyeurism. By the play's end, it is clear that Volpone is hardly the brains behind his own scheme - he is quite susceptible to Mosca's manipulations.
"his Parasite," i.e. Volpone's servant. Mosca is bothersome, obsequious, and conniving. Though he is lower than Volpone in birth, Mosca is effectively the master of the scam. Volpone is the star, but Mosca is the manipulator, the one who plays the legacy hunters against each other. Like Volpone's, Mosca's greed is all-consuming, and even more than his master, Mosca operates on pure strategy, never displaying the least remorse for his deceit and chicanery.
"an Advocate," or lawyer. Among the legacy hunters, Voltore is distinguished by his profession. Mosca tells Voltore that he will be heir because Volpone admires lawyers. Mosca also singles him out for punishment because of his exceptional performance in the defense of Volpone. Voltore's intelligence gives him an air of superiority but also a capacity for remorse. It is Voltore's confession that ultimately ruins Volpone and Mosca.
"an old Gentleman." Corbaccio is a decrepit miser. His hearing, his vision, and his gait are all impaired, yet he plans to outlast Volpone. Corbaccio commits his treachery with reasonably good intentions - that is, to increase his son's wealth - but only his greed could've led him to seek Volpone's fortune in the first place. Ultimately, the false accusation Corbaccio makes against his son is one of the more abominable acts of the play.
"a Merchant." Besides being greedy, Corvino is tempestuous and ill-tempered. His treatment of his wife is horrifying. He epitomizes carnal desire. Since he is the most subject to his passions, Corvino is the most credulous of the legacy hunters. Hence, he is duped in the worst way.
"four Magistrates," or the judges from the Scrutineo. For representatives of order and justice, the Avocatori are dangerously gullible. They switch sides in the court case based not on concrete evidence but on their impressions of the defendants and the prosecutors. What's worse, the Avocatori are just as shallow and self-absorbed as the other characters in the play. Even when lives are at stake, the Avocatori are concerned only with marrying their daughters off to Mosca.
"the Register," or officer of the Scrutineo. The Notario acts something like a bailiff would in a modern court of law. He summons witnesses, swears them in, and, in general, runs errands for the Avocatori.
"a Dwarf." One of the three servants whom Volpone keeps for entertainment. Their performances mostly involve slapstick humor, which serves as a commentary on Elizabethan theater. They also run errands for Volpone, for instance spreading the false news that he has died.
"an Eunuch." One of the three servants whom Volpone keeps for entertainment, who are also, allegedly, his illegitimate children.
"a Hermaphrodite." The third of Volpone's servant players.
Sir Politic Would-be
"a Knight." Sir Politic is a traveler from England who prides himself on knowing the ways of a gentleman. He is a know-it-all who in fact knows not very much at all. He puts tremendous stake in his reputation and in many ways acts as a foil for Volpone. Unlike Volpone's, however, Sir Politic's get-rich-quick schemes are not exploitative.
"a Gentleman-traveller." Like Sir Politic, Peregrine is a visitor from England who thus serves to connect the storyline to Jonson's home country. Peregrine also embodies the theme of Vengeance and symbolizes the Knowledge aspect of the Knowledge/Ignorance theme.
"a young Gentleman, son of Corbaccio." Bonario is upstanding, noble, and unfortunately gullible. His honesty and his desire to do right make him one of the more righteous characters in the play. However, perhaps because he believes so strongly in good, he is too trusting of others and is exploited as a result.
"the Knight's wife." Lady Would-be is the garrulous, vain, and jealous companion of Sir Politic. Though she is herself independent, Lady Would-be begrudges Sir Politic his freedom, becoming irrationally exasperated when Mosca tells her that Sir Politic is with another woman. We know also that Lady Would-be's greed rivals that of Corvino, Corbaccio, and Voltore since Mosca tells us that she offered him her body in order to be Volpone's heir.
"the Merchant's wife." Despite her sadomasochistic desire, Celia, along with Bonario, stands for righteousness amidst corruption. Her innocence is debatable, but Celia, unlike nearly every other character in the play, is at least unspoiled by greed.
"Officers." The Commendatori are the court officers who detain Corbaccio, Corvino, Voltore, Mosca, and Volpone once their punishments have been handed down. Also, Volpone disguises himself as a commendatore in order to taunt Corbaccio, Corvino, and Voltore in the streets.
"three Merchants." The Mercatori are Peregrine's accomplices in the practical joke he plays on Sir Politic. They pretend to be representatives of the Venetian state who have come to apprehend Sir Politic.
"crowd." The throng that gathers in the public square around Volpone when he pretends to be a mountebank.
Lady Would-be's servants.
Volpone Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Volpone is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Animalization, that is, Jonson's representation of characters as their namesake animals, transforms Volpone into a kind of fable. Arguably, the characters are not as one-dimensional as their names might suggest, but their names are fitting,...