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In Volpone How Does Jonson Use Celia To Portray His Message Of Crime And Punishment To His Audience?

1018 words - 4 pages

"Wither, wither/ Is shame fled human breasts?... Is that, which ever was a cause for life,/ Now placed beneath the basest circumstance?/ And modesty an exile made for money?" This is the strongest statement of the play's philosophy. Knowing that Jonson put these words into the mouth of Celia proves what a vital role she plays in portraying his moral message.Whilst protagonist Volpone, a hedonist, indulges in as many pleasures as possible, often pursuing them vigorously. Celia is the exact antithesis. Her self-denial and self-restraint make her a perfect foil for Volpone as she exposes his complete lack of virtues. A clear example of this is Volpone's attempted seduction of her. The turning point of the play comes when she refuses Volpone's advances, denying him the lascivious pleasures he describes in his speech. Celia seems willing to do anything to avoid dishonour, making her character flat and predictable, to ready to sacrifice herself to be believable. However, this is Jonson's intention. He portrays her as an ethereal, saintly, ideal. Celia's love is compared to "heaven," "a plot of paradise." She is described as a "better angel." She is someone whom the audience should aspire to be. Conversely, a contemporary audience could instead see her willingness to subject herself to Corvino's harsh dictates and abuse as being more weak than strong. But, it is her inner moral sense, even though it is dictated by seventeenth century conventions on femininity, indicated when she refuses Volpone against her husband's express wish that shows her true strength of will.Her perfection is starkly contrasted by the grotesque reactions she provokes from Volpone and Corvino. The religious imagery Volpone used to describe his riches he uses for a new "better angel", for Celia. The "gold, plate and jewels," which Volpone addresses in tones of worship at the beginning of the play, Volpone gives to Mosca so that he can use them to woo Celia; the all-important gold has been subordinated to her conquest. The language Volpone describes his love for Celia is the language of sickness, not love. He feels a "flame", trapped inside his body and his "liver melts". Jonson demonstrates that Volpone's light-hearted, lustful ways are not as innocent as they appear, since they can easily develop into an unhealthy, and unnatural, sexual obsession.Corvino too has a grotesque response to Celia's body. His description of the handkerchief incident is rife with intense, sensual imagery. He feverishly describes "itching ears," "noted lechers," "satyrs," "hot spectators", "the fricace", before he verbally imagines Celia and Scoto Mantua engaged in the act of intercourse. Like Volpone Celia's body causes a sickness in him, except that his sickness is characterised by violence and rage whereas Volpone's is characterised by physical agony. Corvino's grotesque sexual obsession is firmly linked to his sense of property, for he considers Celia to be his property. When he threatens to kill her...

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