Release Date
August 2023
3 hours 5 minutes
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson - is a comedy by English playwright Ben Jonson. First performed in 1610 by the King's Men, it is generally considered Jonson's best and most characteristic comedy; Samuel Taylor Coleridge believed that it had one of the three most perfect plots in literature. The play's clever fulfilment of the classical unities and vivid depiction of human folly have made it one of the few Renaissance plays (except the works of Shakespeare) with a continuing life on stage, apart from a period of neglect during the Victorian era

An outbreak of plague in London forces a gentleman, Lovewit, to flee temporarily to the country. He leaves 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.

The play opens with a violent argument between Subtle and Face concerning the division of the riches which they have, and will continue to gather. Face threatens to have an engraving made of Subtle with a face worse than that of the notorious highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey. Dol breaks the pair apart and reasons with them that they must work as a team if they are to succeed. Their first customer is Dapper, a lawyer's clerk who wishes Subtle to use his supposed necromantic skills to summon a 'familiar' or spirit to help in his gambling ambitions. The tripartite suggest that Dapper may win favour with the 'Queen of Fairy,' but he must subject himself to humiliating rituals in order for her to help him.

Their second gull is Drugger, a tobacconist, who is keen to establish a profitable business. After this, a wealthy nobleman, Sir Epicure Mammon, arrives, expressing the desire to gain himself the philosopher's stone, which he believes will bring him huge material and spiritual wealth. He is accompanied by Surly, a sceptic and debunker of the whole idea of alchemy. He is promised the philosopher's stone and promised that it will turn all base metal into gold. Surly however, suspects Subtle of being a thief. Mammon accidentally sees Dol and is told that she is a Lord's sister who is suffering from madness. Subtle contrives to become angry with Ananias, an Anabaptist, and demands that he should return with a more senior member of his sect (Tribulation). Drugger returns and is given false and ludicrous advice about setting up his shop; he also brings news that a rich young widow (Dame Pliant) and her brother (Kastril) have arrived in London. Both Subtle and Face in their greed and ambition seek out to win the widow.

The Anabaptists return and agree to pay for goods to be transmuted into gold. These are in fact Mammon's goods. Dapper returns and is promised that he shall meet with the Queen of Fairy soon. Drugger brings Kastril who, on being told that Subtle is a skilled match-maker, rushes to fetch his sister. Drugger is given to understand that the appropriate payment might secure his marriage to the widow. Dapper is blindfolded and subjected to 'fairy' humiliations; but on the reappearance of Mammon, he is gagged and hastily thrust into the privy.
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