In 20th century criticism Volpone has been generally acknowledged as a beast fable. Beast fables are the stories about beast in which human qualities are infused in non-human beings. The aim is to explore human follies or to convey moral message or both.
Volpone, in this sense, is undoubtedly a beast fable. The characters of the play are beasts in human shape. The majority of characters derive their names from animals. The play also displays the bestial nature of the characters.
Volpone, the protagonist, is the cunning fox who tried to lure his prey by pretending to be sick and dying. Mosca, his parasite, is flesh fly, which feeds on everything it can sit upon. Appropriately, he tries to exploit the three legacy hunters and feeds on the sickness of his master.
The three legacy hunters owe their names to predatory birs. Voltore is a vulture. He is gifted with predatorily oriented eyesight. He does not have any family ties. Corbaccio is a raven. A raven was notorious for its hostility ot its young ones, if they did not resemble it. In this respect, Corbaccio like a raven tries to disinherit his own son Bonario, who is so different from his father. Similarly, Corvino is crow,. He is greedy of harvest.
In the sub-plot, Sir and Lady Politic Would-be derive their names from parrots. Like a parrot, Sir Politic has no imagination, but he has a capacity to imitate others. Lady Would-be exhausts everyone with her ceaseless chatter. Her imitation of the Venetian fashion also fits with her name and character.
The punishment to these beast-like characters is given according to their nature and crimes. Volpone is crippled by iron-chains in prison. Voltore is exiled from the society of learned men and from Venice. Corbaccio is confined to a monastery, while Corvino is to be rowed about in Venice. Sir Politic becomes a turtle when he hides himself in the tortoise-shell. Peregrine, like a hawk, will take the tortoise high in the sky and then throw it on the earth to break the shell.
To conclude, the great satirist and reformer Ben Jonson scolded men for correction. He laughs at men not with sympathy but his laughter is curative. The beast fable technique helps him to magnify and attack greed, hypocrisy, treachery, flattery, lust and so on.