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The Alchemist

Ben Jonson

Book Overview: 

An outbreak of plague in London forces a gentleman, Lovewit, to flee temporarily to the country, leaving his house under the sole charge of his butler, Jeremy. Jeremy uses the opportunity given to him to use the house as the headquarters for fraudulent acts. He transforms himself into 'Captain Face', and enlists the aid of Subtle, a fellow conman and Dol Common, a prostitute. In The Alchemist, Jonson unashamedly satirizes the follies, vanities and vices of mankind, most notably greed-induced credulity. People of all social classes are subject to Jonson's ruthless, satirical wit. He mocks human weakness and gullibility to advertising and to "miracle cures" with the character of Sir Epicure Mammon, who dreams of drinking the elixir of youth and enjoying fantastic sexual conquests. The Alchemist focuses on what happens when one human being seeks advantage over another. In a big city like London, this process of advantage-seeking is rife. The trio of con-artists - Subtle, Face and Dol - are self-deluding small-timers, ultimately undone by the same human weaknesses they exploit in their victims. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Since, by my means, translated suburb-captain. FACE. By your means, doctor dog! SUB. Within man's memory, All this I speak of. FACE. Why, I pray you, have I Been countenanced by you, or you by me? Do but collect, sir, where I met you first. SUB. I do not hear well. FACE. Not of this, I think it. But I shall put you in mind, sir;—at Pie-corner, Taking your meal of steam in, from cooks' stalls, Where, like the father of hunger, you did walk Piteously costive, with your pinch'd-horn-nose, And your complexion of the Roman wash, Stuck full of black and melancholic worms, Like powder corns shot at the artillery-yard. SUB. I wish you could advance your voice a little. FACE. When you went pinn'd up in the several rags You had raked and pick'd from dunghills, before day; Your feet in mouldy slippers, for your kibes; A felt of rug, and a thin threaden cloke, That scarce would cover your no buttocks— SUB. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Ben Jonson is the Martin Amis of early 17th century English theater. His prose is bloated with dense analogies and shows of learnedness that jarringly contrast with a preoccupation for criminal lowlifes and jokes about bodily secretions of both the sexy and non-sexy persuasions. Jonson also has a...more

Making fun of the common people
(5 January 2014)

The general gist of this play among commentators on Goodreads is that much of the humour is dated which is why they don't think the play works all that well. It is not so much that people seem to hate the play, but rather feel that the content belon...more

بنجامین (بن) جانسن (1637- 1572)، بیشتر بخاطر کمدی هایش مشهور است، به ویژه "ولپن"، "کیمیاگر" و "رابطه ی بارتولومی".
نوشته اند که کیمیاگر 1610، یکی از سه نمایش نامه ی کمدی تاریخ است که از داستانی محکم و گفتگوهایی بی عیب برخوردار است. شیوع یک طاعون در لندن سبب می شود تا "آقای لاوویت" خانه و زندگی اش...more

It is really very curious to see that this play is more famous, and more highly regarded, than Epicoene, for in the latter the humor never strays from joking upon aspects of vanity which have not changed much throughout time... but with The Alchemist, we see from the very title that the play is d...more

the second line of this play reads ''i fart at thee'' and somehow it only gets better from that.

After many years I've just re-read this lovely play. I'd forgotten most of the trickery and comedy. Loved it.

Surprise!

I didn't expect to be able to give The Alchemist a rating above one star, as I didn't know that there was an exquisite alternative version, a prequel so to say, written several centuries before the rubbish novel, in 1610, showing the reverse development of human intelligence and wit fro...more

A servant, a thief, and a whore walk into a bar......and that's essentially how this rollicking good comedy from Elizabethan England gets started. The servant's master has gone out of town for a few months to escape the plague, and so the servant goes to a local establishment, finds a local troub...more

Ben Jonson is a great writer who's only mistake must be to have been born at the same time as the great Shakespeare. Full of satire and sexual innuendos, The Alchemist narrates the tale of two rogues, one the alchemist who promises people to turn all their items to gold and the other his helper....more

A wench is a rare bait, with which a man
No sooner's taken, but he straight firks mad.

Funny that firk, it means many things: to both expel and to fuck as well as become or carry. I felt only the fervor of the former in my experience with brother Ben Jonson. Anthony Vacca has noted here on GR that...more

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