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Volpone
a new version of the Ben Jonson play


All Edinburgh Theatre   pdf version
Produced: Edinburgh 2017 and 2018
Published: Arbery Books 2017



With the aid of his wily servant Mosca, rich Volpone convinces the wealthy citizens of Venice that he is on his deathbed - prompting them to shower him with gifts in the hope that they will became his sole heir. Buoyed by success, the pair persuade merchant Corvino to offer his beautiful wife to bring Volpone back to health. Meanwhile a trio of English tourists get involved in Volpone's schemes. How will it all end?


This adaptation of Ben Jonson's rollicking satire maintains all the elements of Jonson's plot while bringing the language and setting into the nineteenth century. Jonson's jokes that stand the test of time are retained, while others are added to keep the laughter coming. The greatest change comes in transforming two leading characters into women: Corbaccia, the old lady who disinherits her son to get Volpone's riches, and Mosca, whose quick thinking saves herself and her master from potential discovery and offers them even greater rewards.


First presented in a one-week, four-star run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, the production was enhanced and reprised for a three-week run in the 2018 Fringe.



Extract from Scene 6

Volpone is visited by Lady Would-Be


VOLPONE Who is it? Mosca? Enter!


Enter a female SERVANT


SERVANT Signior Volpone?


VOLPONE Yes.


SERVANT My Lady Would-Be begs leave to visit.


VOLPONE (suddenly weak) Now? I am not well.


Offstage: LADY WOULD-BE If he is ill, he needs my help.
Volpone by Martin Foreman

Playscript
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Performing rights

2018 poster
Alistair Lawless (Volpone) and Vanashree Thapliyal (Mosca)




VOLPONE (rushing to his bed) The cure may be worse than the disease.


Enter LADY WOULD-BE.


LADY WOULD-BE (to servant) You! Come here. Is this curl in the right place? And this? Why is this higher than the rest?


SERVANT attends to Lady Would-Be's hair


LADY WOULD-BE (cont) Is it better now?


SERVANT One little hair here still sticks out, my lady.


LADY WOULD-BE Indeed? And where were your eyes when you attended me this morning? Only now you see it? Are you not ashamed? Sort it. How often have I instructed you, laid out the principles, disputed every error, praised every grace - praise that you seldom earned? No teacher has been so patient in the art of dressing hair than I.


SERVANT Yes, my lady.


LADY WOULD-BE What will the Italians say? "The English lady, she cannot dress herself." It is a slander on our country to walk out with undressed hair. Well, wait for me in the servants' quarters. The blush on my cheek is too faint. No matter, go wait for me.


SERVANT Yes, my lady.


Exit SERVANT


VOLPONE (aside) Here comes the storm.


LADY WOULD-BE How is my brave Volpone?


VOLPONE Troubled with noise. I cannot sleep. I dreamt that a strange fury entered my house and spoke so loud that my roof was blown away.


LADY WOULD-BE I too had a fearful dream, if I could but remember it.


VOLPONE (aside) Damnation. Now she will tell me it.


LADY WOULD-BE It seemed a rainbow, bright and delicate . . .


VOLPONE Madam, if you will, no more. I sweat and suffer at the mention of any dream. See how I tremble.


LADY WOULD-BE Poor soul! What you need now to stimulate the heart is crushed pearl in syrup of apples and tincture of gold. Add lemon, bitter plums . . .


VOLPONE (aside) She is in full flight!


LADY WOULD-BE . . . essence of amber. Of course you have muscadel wine.


VOLPONE Will you take a glass and leave?


LADY WOULD-BE Saffron - it must be English - half a dram. Sixteen cloves, a little musk, dried mint, barley . . .


VOLPONE (aside) She will not stop. Once I feigned illness, now I truly suffer.


LADY WOULD-BE Apply with a scarlet cloth.


VOLPONE (aside) A never-ending torrent. She never stops.


LADY WOULD-BE Shall I make you a poultice?


VOLPONE No, no, no. I feel much better now.


LADY WOULD-BE I have studied a little medicine, but now I have a passion for music, except in the forenoon when I must spend an hour or two in painting. A lady should practise all the arts. Good conversation, knowledge of literature, a talent to write but above all, as Plato tells us, music. Pythagoras too, I believe, says the same. With face and clothes, our voice is woman's greatest ornament.


VOLPONE The poet says the highest female grace is silence.


LADY WOULD-BE Which poet? Petrarch, Tasso or Dante? Guarini? Ariosto? Aretine? I have read them all.


VOLPONE (aside) Is there no escape?


LADY WOULD-BE I think I have some of them with me.


VOLPONE (aside) The sun and tides will cease before her tongue falls quiet. I am doomed.


LADY WOULD-BE Here is The Faithful Shepherd. Our English writers often steal from this author. Petrarch is more passionate. Dante is hard. For wit there's Aretine, although his pictures are not for polite company. You are not paying attention.


VOLPONE Alas, my mind is disturbed.


LADY WOULD-BE In that case, we must turn to philosophy.




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