On comedy and death : the anamorphic ape in Volpone

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalComedy Studies
Issue number2
Early online date2 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • comedy
  • death
  • ape
  • dwarf
  • Volpone
  • Lacan
  • Jonson


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