Summary and Analysis
Act III: Scene 5
In a conspiratorial aside, Volpone entreats Mosca to rid him of "my madam with the everlasting voice!" Always the man of business, the parasite asks the fox if Lady Would-be has given a present to Volpone. "Oh, I do not care!" moans the suffering gentleman. "I'll take her absence upon any price." Lady Would-be scents mischief and interrupts the tricksters with an inconsequential gift, a cap she has made. Without noticing the sift, Mosca draws the English lady into conference. He relates having seen Sir Politic "rowing upon the water in a gondola, with the most cunning courtesan of Venice." "Is't true?" demands the incredulous lady. Follow and see, replies Mosca as he deftly relieves the fleeing Englishwoman of her gift. Wisely, and with some swagger, Mosca, perhaps toying the while with the filched cap, expresses confidence that his lie would be accepted without question: "For lightly, they that use themselves most license are still most jealous." Volpone's gratitude is effusively expressed, but it is squelched by the return of Lady Would-be who demands, "Which way rowed they together?" Mosca, unperturbed, points "toward the Rialto." And away she goes!
Mosca tells Volpone to remain at his couch; Corbaccio and the will are at hand. After they are gone, Mosca has more to reveal.
Mosca once again demonstrates his understanding of human nature in his manner of dismissing Lady Would-be. He and his master engage in a bit of private humor when Volpone admits that he will take her absence at any price. Of course, the loss to Volpone is the property of Lady Would-be! Notice that even though the cap is of little value, Mosca remembers to relieve the lady of her present.
Jonson hastens the speed of the developing action by having Lady Would-be return unexpectedly. Furthermore, this sudden and unlooked-for incident parallels the action of the main plot to come. Lady Would-be is agitated, Volpone nearly loses consciousness, but Mosca remains cool. The audience can expect more of the same as the complications increase. Mosca tells Volpone that Corbaccio is at hand, directing Volpone to bed. Volpone goes behind the curtains of the inner stage. It is important to keep in mind that Volpone is not visible at this point in the action.