Ben Jonson



a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A "ghost character." A detractor of Scoto of Mantua; Volpone mentions him while disguised as Scoto.


A hermaphrodite in the service of Volpone. Androgino's main duty is to participate in shows to entertain his master. In one show, Androgino is said to possess the soul of Pythagoras and is questioned about the various bodies his soul has inhabited.


Judges in Venice. They initially believe Bonario and Celia's claims about Volpone but they are then swayed by the lies of Voltore and others. Later, they finally uncover the plots of Volpone and others and hand down harsh punishments.


The son of Corbaccio. When he is informed by Mosca that his father intends to disinherit him, he agrees to seek proof. While waiting in Volpone's house, he sees Volpone about to rape Celia and intercedes. He seeks justice but is himself accused of plotting against his father. He is eventually vindicated.


A "ghost character." Volpone, disguised as Scoto of Mantua, denies having poisoned the Cardinal's cook.


A "ghost character." Volpone claims he is an established customer while he is disguised as Scoto of Mantua.


A "ghost character." Volpone claims he is a established customer while disguised as Scoto of Mantua.


A eunuch in the service of Volpone. Castrone's main employment is to sing for his master.


Wife of Corvino. She is admired for her beauty and thus is rarely allowed in public by her jealous husband. When Volpone, disguised as Scoto of Mantua, calls on the onlookers to throw a handkerchief, Celia throws hers to him. When her husband insists she sleep with Volpone, she is shocked and refuses. She is rescued from Volpone by Bonario but is then imprisoned on false charges of adultery. She is exonerated when Volpone is later forced to confess. Because of her husband's crimes, she is permitted to return to the home of her father with three times her dowry.


A court official.


A nearly deaf old man gulled by Volpone. His name means crow. Corbaccio is convinced by Mosca to disinherit his son Bonario and name Volpone as his heir in the hopes that Volpone will reciprocate. Corbaccio later defends himself in court by betraying his son, and when Voltore admits the truth in a subsequent hearing, Corbaccio refuses to recant. When Volpone confesses, Corbaccio's property is given to his son and he is sent to a monastery to live out his remaining days.


A merchant gulled by Volpone. His name means raven. When he discovers Volpone, disguised as Scoto of Mantua, putting on a presentation for a crowd that includes his wife, he is outraged. He attacks Volpone and berates his wife for her indiscretion. Moments later, convinced that Volpone is seeking a beautiful woman with whom to engage in sex as a means of cure, and in an effort to ingratiate himself with Volpone, Corvino demands that Celia go to Volpone's bed. Corvino lies in court to hide his misdeeds and refuses to recant when Voltore later confesses the truth. When all is exposed, Corvino is sentenced to a series of public humiliations.


A "ghost character." While disguised as Scoto of Mantua, Volpone claims the Duke is an established customer.


A member of the crowd that watches Volpone disguised as Scoto of Mantua–or possibly a name applied to the entire crowd.


Wife to Sir Politic Would-Be. She has come to Venice, supposedly eager to know more about its language and culture. Like many others, she visits Volpone hoping to become his heir, but Volpone is so exasperated by her loquaciousness that he cannot tolerate her. When Mosca, in an effort to be rid of her, tells her that her husband is consorting with a courtesan, she rushes to investigate. Finding Would-Be with the youth Peregrine, she assumes Peregrine is the courtesan in disguise and berates both men. Later, in the court, Lady Would-Be accuses Celia of being the same harlot. She leaves Venice before the plots are exposed.


A "ghost character." Mentioned by Mosca as a physician attending Volpone.


Merchants. They help Peregrine in his plot against Would-Be.


A servant to Volpone. His name means fly. Mosca assists his master in gulling those who seek to be named Volpone's heir. Mosca assures them all that that they have been made Volpone's sole heir and that Volpone is very near death. When Volpone lusts after Corvino's wife, Celia, Mosca convinces Corvino to offer her to Volpone. Later, when Bonario seeks to expose Volpone's misdeeds, Mosca enlists all his gulls, Voltore, Corvino, Corbaccio and Lady Would-Be, to defend Volpone. In court, Mosca orchestrates the false testimony of all of them. Later, Mosca participates in the charade in which Volpone is supposed dead and he, Mosca, has inherited. But when the matter once again comes before the court, Mosca takes advantage of the situation and tries to extort money from Volpone. When Volpone reveals all, Mosca is sentenced to whipping and imprisonment.


A dwarf in the service of Volpone. Nano's main role is to participate in shows to entertain his master.


A court official.


An English traveler. He is amused by the foolish Would-Be, but when Lady Would-Be mistakes him for a courtesan, Peregrine concludes that Would-Be has been playing a joke on him and creates a plot of his own in return. He disguises himself as a merchant and tells Would-Be that the man he met, Peregrine, was a spy who has denounced Would-Be as a traitor to Venice. When the frightened Would-Be hides in a tortoise shell, Peregrine and his accomplices torment him until Peregrine decides the score has been settled and departs.


The soul of the philosopher Pythagoras is said to inhabit Androgino in a show presented for Volpone.


A disguise assumed by Volpone. Scoto is a famous mountebank. In disguise Volpone uses the variation Scoto Mantuano to describe himself.


A servant to Corvino.


A credulous English Knight who has come to Venice with his wife. When Peregrine convinces him that the authorities are planning to arrest and torture him for treason, Would-Be hides in a tortoise shell that he has kept on hand for just such an emergency. He is discovered and laughed at, after which he vows to return quietly to England.


A "ghost character." Stone, a famous English fool, is said to have died recently.


The fox. A greedy, crafty, cozening miser of Venice. Volpone feigns illness and makes it known that he seeks an heir to his fortune. This ruse draws other greedy men and women who give Volpone lavish gifts in the hope of being named in his will. When Volpone hears of the beauty of Corvino's wife, Celia, he is intrigued and disguises himself as a mountebank, Scoto of Mantua, putting on a display outside her window. When he sees her, he is immediately enamored of her and employs Mosca to find a way for him to seduce her. When Celia is brought to him he attempts to win her over. Failing in that, he threatens to rape her, but is prevented by Bonario. When called to testify in court, Volpone convincingly pretends to be ill, discrediting his accusers. Soon after this victory Volpone spreads the false rumour that he has died and instructs Mosca to pretend that he has inherited all so that Volpone can observe the suffering of the other potential heirs. Still not satisfied, Volpone disguises himself again to hear more. But when Voltore breaks down and confesses the truth to the court, and when Mosca will not confirm that he is really alive, Volpone removes his disguise and denounces nearly everyone. For his crimes, Volpone is imprisoned and his money donated to a hospital.


An advocate gulled by Volpone. His name means vulture. When Volpone is accused in court, Voltore speaks for him and successfully accuses the guiltless Celia of committing adultery, and the equally guiltless Bonario of adultery and plotting to murder his father. Later, believing Volpone has died and left his fortune to Mosca, Voltore goes before the judges and exposes Mosca's machinations. But during the hearing, Voltore learns that Volpone is still alive. To hide the truth, Voltore pretends to have been possessed and recants his confession. When all are exposed, Voltore is exiled for his crimes.


Women who act as a messengers between Peregrine and Would-Be and who serve Lady Would-Be.