Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scene 1
Jonson begins the second act by introducing his audience to a couple of English tourists sightseeing in St. Mark's Square. Sir Politic Would-be is in Venice at his wife's insistence; it is the height of the social season. Peregrine is confused by Sir Pol's strange conversation: "This fellow, does he gull me, trow, or is gulled?" Sir Pol mysteriously asks of signs and portents current in London. Affecting the same disposition, Peregrine relates the death of the fool Stone. "Stone dead!" puns Sir Pol in unconscious shock, and Peregrine hopes that the fool "was no kinsman" to the knight. Sir Pol tells Peregrine that Stone was actually a dangerous secret agent who "received weekly intelligence" in a "trencher of meat" and "before the meal was done, convey[ed] an answer in a toothpick." Peregrine repeats that he has heard "your baboons were spies" and Sir Pol gravely concurs. Anxious to mark the ebbs and flows of states, Sir Politic keeps a notebook filled with pertinent observations. At that moment, Mosca and the dwarf enter the square and begin erecting a stage. They are disguised.
The first act of Volpone develops the central conflict and introduces the main characters of the play. Jonson begins the second act with the people and action of the parallel subplot. The most obvious parallel is the gullible nature of Sir Politic, whom Peregrine uses as his fool.
Jonson uses Sir Pol's political machinations as a prologue to the more serious schemes connected with Volpone's mountebank disguise. Furthermore, Sir Pol represents the credulous audience before whom Volpone is about to play.
Peregrine is a pilgrim falcon. The falcon, a bird of sport, is commonly trained to hunt other birds. The subplot characters imitate the actors of the main plot, but that is their major folly. The game they play is not a serious one, and the outcome is not as harsh as the conclusion of the main plot.