Volpone, or The Fox (in Italian: "Big Fox"), is a black comedy by Ben Jonson first produced in 1606, and considered one of the finest comedies of the Jacobean period.
Volpone fakes a long illness to pique the expectations of all who aspire to his fortune. Mosca tells each of them, Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino, in their turns, that they are to be named Volpone's heir, thanks to Mosca's influence. Mosca then announces Volpone's impending death. The hopeful heirs shower Volpone with gifts. Corbaccio disinherits his own son in Volpone's favour; Corvino offers Volpone his wife. Complications ensue, and just as Volpone is about to be outsmarted by Mosca, he reveals all in open court and the characters are punished according to their crime and station.
In 1918 the theme of a man faking his death to cozen his friends was taken up by Puccini in the third part of Il Trittico, namely Gianni Schicchi.
Volpone was adapted by Jules Romains and Stefan Zweig in their 1928 production, with the ending changed so that Mosca winds up with Volpone's money.
This version was used by George Antheil in his 1953 opera Volpone.
A more recent operatic version, by composer John Musto and librettist Mark Campbell, premiered in March 2004 at the Barns at Wolf Trap to positive critical notices.
A Broadway musical adaptation (1964) by Ian McLellan Hunter and Ring Lardner Jr. moved the play's setting to the Yukon during the gold rush of 1898 and starred Bert Lahr as a prospector. The show had music by Robert Emmett Dolan and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It opened at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York on February 16, 1964, and played 72 performances.
The stage adaptation Sly Fox, by Larry Gelbart, updated the setting from Renaissance Venice to 19th century San Francisco, and changed the tone from satire to farce.
The Honey Pot is a 1967 film by Joseph Mankiewicz based on Volpone, although with a romantic subplot and some more sentimental trappings, with Rex Harrison in the main role, Cliff Robertson as Mosca ("McFly"), and Maggie Smith as the love interest.
In 1988 the film was adapted for Italian cinema by Maurizio Ponzi, with the title Il Volpone. Set in modern Liguria, it features Paolo Villaggio as Ugo Maria Volpone and Enrico Montesano as Mosca.