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Ben Jonson’s Volpone – A New Form of Comedy

Many critics of Ben Jonson’s ”Volpone” have argued that it is not a true comedy but rather a mix of tragedy, comedy, and satire. Many have also claimed that it follows the traditional beast-fable that can be found in the tales of Aesop. Although Volpone takes on some characteristics of tragedy, it seems to follow closer to the conventions of comedy. But it is not the traditional form of comedy. It is a play that takes on the form of a comical satire as well as a morality play. It also adapts the features of a fable in that it strives to teach a moral. Yet this play, even though it adopts these traditions, puts a different twist on what people would expect from a comedy or morality play. Jonson presents his audience with an unconventional way of approaching the subjects he is satirizing by creating a new form of comedy that embodies aspects of all three genres.

Since we are considering Volpone to be a comedy, What type of comedy is it? Rather than the city comedies that were popular at the time I believe this play to be more like a satirical comedy. Why a satire? Because he is criticizing his age and social atmosphere. He also has as a main influence of his play the satiric works of Juvenal. Like Juvenal, Jonson is satirizing the whole of his country. Whether it is the corruption of the court that we find in Voltore or the immorality of the legacy hunters Jonson is satirizing the importance of money during his time.

But there is a striking difference between Volpone and the traditional idea of comical satire.

The contrast between Volpone and the comical satire is immediately apparent. Gone are the static spokesman, the conveniently formulated ideal, and the easy dispensation of comic justice from a lofty vantagepoin…

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…te of others. It is this combination of the moral and satirical that makes this play so unique for its time. The use of the fable lets the reader treat the subject of moral action in a detached way while the comical action entertains the audience. In Volpone Jonson was successful in combining three genres in order to create a new form of comedy.

Works Cited

Barish, Jonas A. Ben Jonson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice-Hall Inc.:Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963.

Baum, Helena Watts. The Satiric and Didactic in Ben Jonson’s Comedies. The University of North Carolina Press, 1947.

Dessen, Alan C. Jonson’s Moral Comedy. Northwestern University. Press, 1971.

Watson, Robert N. Ben Jonson’s Parodic Strategy: Literary Imperialism in the Comedies. Harvard University Press, 1987.

White, T.H. The Bestiary: A Book of Beasts. G.P. Putnam

Ugliness and Beauty in Alice Walker’s Color Purple

Ugliness and Beauty in Walker’s The Color Purple

When I finished The Color Purple, I cried. I was deeply touched by the story and all of the issues that it addressed. One interrelated theme that reiterates throughout the novel is that of ugliness and beauty. Celie represents ugliness, and Shug Avery illustrates beauty. The most prominent way that the struggle between ugliness and beauty presents itself in the novel is through Albert, Celie’s forced husband, and Shug’s long-time lover.

The characters of Celie and Shug are compared and contrasted throughout the novel, and the reason why Albert, for the majority of the novel, treats the two of them so differently is because of the way they look. Albert not only hates, but beats Celie because she is ugly and she is not Shug. “He beat me [Celie] when you not here, I say. Who do, she [Shug] say, Albert? Mr. _____, I say. . . . What he beat you for? she ast. For being me and not you” (79). Albert loves Shug because she is beautiful. In addition, Alice Walker “views Albert’s love of Shug, in spite of her color and his father’s protestations, as a sign of psychic health and, more specifically, a sign of self-love” (Winchell 98). However, this “self-love” that Albert supposedly possesses is only extended to Shug, not to Celie. This is because Shug is the epitome of society’s patriarchal definition of a feminine woman. She has perfect flawless skin, hair that is never out of place, a voluptuous and sensuous (non-fat) body, and the fashionable clothes and accessories of a model. On first meeting Shug Celie describes, “and she dress to kill. She got on a red wool dress and chestful of black beads. A shiny black hat with what look like chickinhawk feathers curve down…

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…Louis Gates, Jr. and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad Press, Inc., 1993.

Johnson, Yvonne. The Voices of African American Women. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1998.

Smith, Pamela A. “Green Lap, Brown Embrace, Blue Body: The Ecospirituality of Alice Walker.” April Cross Currents 2000 (1999): 18 p. Online. Internet. 30 Nov. 1999. Available:

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1982.

Walker, Alice. “A South Without Myths.” Sojourners Magazine Online (Dec. 1994 – Jan. 1995): 2 p. Online. Internet. 30 Nov. 1999. Available: 941213.html.

Waxman, Barbara Frey. “Dancing out of form, dancing into self: genre and metaphor in Marshall, Shange, and Walker.” Melus 19.3 (Fall 1994): 1-16.

Winchell, Donna Haisty. Alice Walker. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.

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