About the BookThe Alchemist is considered Jonson’s best and most characteristic comedy. It was first performed in 1610 by King’s Men. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a great romantic poet, claimed that it had one of the three most perfect plots in literature. The play’s clever fulfillment of the classical unities and vivid depiction of human folly have made it one of the few Renaissance plays barring the works of Shakespeare, with continuing performances on stage, except for a period of neglect during the Victorian era.
The play concerns a wily servant, Face, who develops a scheme to make money while his master is away in the countryside. He gives access to his master’s house to a charlatan named Subtle and a prostitute named Doll. Subtle disguises himself as an alchemist, with Face as his servant; Doll disguises herself as a zealous Puritan. Together, the three of them gull and cheat an assortment of foolish clients. By the end of the play, ‘the alchemist’, Lovewit returns to find his house in moral disarray. Jonson ends the play with Jeremy begging the audience for forgiveness.
The Alchemist presents us with a satirical window through which we can see the way in which alchemy was perceived in the opening decade of the 17th century.About the Author/sAfter Shakespeare, Ben Jonson was the most eminent writer for the Elizabethan stage. He is widely known for his humours and was the founder of the so-called “Comedy of Humours”. He is considered one of the greatest literary giants of the Elizabethan times.