Summary and Analysis
Act I: Scene 3
Mosca tells Voltore that Volpone holds the vulture first in his love. The present is offered Volpone; the value of the gift evokes Volpone's suggestion that Voltore come more often. Voltore feigns sadness at the pitiful sight of Volpone. Mosca shares the private asides of both Volpone and Voltore as he moves across the stage between them. He encourages both actors to exaggerate their false conditions. Mosca assures the advocate that all of Volpone's wealth will soon pass into the lawyer's coffers. The drooling gull is interrupted by the knocking of another aspirant to Volpone's hoard, one Signor Corbaccio (carrion crow). Mosca hurries the fleeced Voltore out, promising him a copy of Volpone's will. The two conspirators, Volpone and Mosca, rejoice at the first victim's folly and prepare for the entrance of the next fool.
Voltore's entrance presents the audience with its first opportunity to watch the central action of the play. It is evident that all of the actors are playing their own game. Volpone must feign deathly illness and rely upon Mosca as his interpreter and cohort. Voltore, too, relies on Mosca to secure the will in his favor. The parasite Mosca depends upon Volpone's munificence, which is directly related to the success of their ruse.
While the gadfly Mosca goes from the fox to Voltore and back to the fox, the vulture hovers near his dying prey and Volpone plays dead to trick the hunter. The names of the characters indicate not only their emotional dispositions but even the affected way in which they move during the action of the play.
Jonson has intended some comment upon the fact that the vulture is a lawyer. Mosca wisely appeals to Voltore's greed by referring to his weakness for things in writing, specifically, Volpone's will. It is a fine comic insight into human character.
Voltore's scene is ended by the announcement of the entrance of another gull. The playwright allows Voltore to learn of his competition for Volpone's gold. He is building the audience's comic expectation. (The audience is aware of the entire ruse.) The reader should keep these mounting complications in mind because they represent the gradual progression of the comic mood.