Title

On comedy and death : the anamorphic ape in Volpone

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Comedy Studies

Publication Date

2014

Volume

5

Issue

2

First Page

137

Last Page

147

Keywords

comedy; death; ape; dwarf; Volpone; Lacan; Jonson

Abstract

Why would Ben Jonson want to portray Volpone as having a dwarf called Nano? What is the significance of reading the dwarf as a comic figure? Through the discussion of the ape as an anamorphic figure (as an image of distortion and deformity, constantly changing shape, as well as challenging the reader's perspective), this article argues that the dwarf is an important character in the play as it can be related to ideas such as imitation, death, castration, and the Lacanian concept of the gaze. Not only is there a dwarfish quality within Volpone, but this paper suggests that the signification of the ape is ultimately related to the ‘gold’ in Volpone's shrine – meaning that the dwarf reminds us that Death is always present within a city subject, and the ape serves the play's critique of nascent early-modern capitalism.

DOI

10.1080/2040610X.2014.961726

Print ISSN

2040610X

E-ISSN

20406118

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

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Full-text Version

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Recommended Citation

Hui, I. (2014). On comedy and death : the anamorphic ape in Volpone. Comedy Studies, 5(2), 137-147. doi: 10.1080/2040610X.2014.961726