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Alchemist, The

by Ben Jonson
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Methuen Drama
  • Publishing date: 01/09/2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780713671049
  • ISBN: 0713671041


Notes on the lexical, semantic, and theatrical aspects of the text are presented alongside this Elizabethan comedy.

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  • Great Introduction to Ben Jonson's Comedies
    From Amazon

    I recently read the early 17th century comedy "Volpone", my first introduction to Ben Jonson. I was surprised by how well Jonson's humor had traveled through 400 years of cultural change. I did have difficulty with Jonson's dedication (several pages), the introductory argument, and the prologue as well as a "Pythagorean literary satire" in Act One, Scene One. But thereafter I found the humor to be natural and enjoyable. I even found myself somewhat sympathetic for the unscrupulous Volpone, Mosca, Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino. I immediately hunted around on my dustier bookshelves for other works of Ben Jonson.

    "Epicene" was less easy to digest, but was worth the effort. There is a surprising twist in the final scene and I suggest that the reader avoid any literary criticism or introductions to "Epicene" until after your first reading. I had less empathy for the characters in "Epicene" and it was difficult to identify any "good guys". The characters were not terribly disagreeable, but simply dilettantes that had little concern for morality or ethics. The dialogue is more obscure (and more bawdy) than in "Volpone". I found it helpful to first read the footnotes for a scene before actually reading the scene itself.

    "The Alchemist" is more like "Volpone". The main characters are unscrupulous con-men; their targets are gullible, greedy individuals. I learned quite a bit about alchemy, at least alchemy as practiced by 17th century con-men. As with "Volpone" and "Epicene", I was unable to predict how Ben Jonson would bring the play to a satisfactory conclusion. I enjoyed "The Alchemist" and I expect that I will read it again. I don't know if it is performed very often, but it would probably be quite entertaining.

    "Bartholomew Fair" introduces a large, motley collection of characters that largely converse in lower class colloquialisms that require some effort to master. The comedy was intended in part to be a satire on Puritans and thereby please King James, but it was equally an introduction to the varied individuals that might be encountered at an annual fair. It was not easy to keep track of the many characters and I continually referred to the cast listing to reorient myself.

    There are a number of collections of Ben Jonson's plays. I recommend an inexpensive collection, "The Alchemist and Other Plays", publish by Oxford University Press as a World's Classic. The introduction, glossary, and explanatory footnotes by Gordon Campbell are quite good. Begin with either "Volpone" or "The Alchemist" if you are new to Jonson. I hope you are as surprised and pleased as I was.

  • Worth the effort
    From Amazon

    Ben Jonson, although modern audiences find him difficult to read, played an important role in the development of the English comedic play. Volpone is a dark comedy that explores the twisted world of a con artist and his toady. The play demonstrates Jonson's awareness of the hypocrisy of social situations. Similarly, Bartholomew Fair takes the reader on a tour of the seamier side of seventeenth century London life. Zeal of the Land Busy, a religious hypocrite, still speaks to our generation when questions of religious expression still plague us. Epicene is a gender-bender in which the ideal silent woman turns out to be a man. The Alchemist, although the most difficult of the plays to read, is worth the effort, as it explores the questions of knowledge, ownership of knowledge, and abuse common in today's world.

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    From Amazon

    The Alchemist By Paulo Coelh

  • Jonson's The Alchemist - hilarious Renaissance drama!
    From Amazon

    This is a very very funny play. I highly recommend it. If you think Renaissance drama means "only Shakespeare", you need to try some of his contemporaries, like the Poet Laureate Ben Jonson. =smile= Of the three Jonson comedies I've yet read, this one is great fun! Be warned that some of the "alchemical" language may be seem too specialized, unless you know this time period; since it's supposed to be patter to trick the marks, that's not the detraction it seems to be.

    _The_Alchemist_ has a legion of characters, most of whom are the marks. They deserve what they get--but because this is Jonson, the ones running the confidence games may not end up as you expect. His type of comedy is atypical of his period in that respect. If you aren't familiar with the Renaissance speech, then I recommend the excellent New Mermaids text. The extensive footnotes are mostly a glossary, which is extremely helpful! [Yes, it makes some of the period jokes make sense then.]

    Since the characters are drawn broadly, you will be surprised at how easily you will understand them, whether they are greedy or lusty or foolish. The smooth way one con fits into working the next ongoing one is priceless!

    Much like _Volpone_ [also by Jonson], this is a play about greed, about con games, and about how people can allow avarice, lust and money to corrupt them. Call this satire, parody or farce--no matter, the humor is biting and witty and wild. For comparative humor in the same period, this is somewhat comparable to Marlowe's _The Jew of Malta_.

    I love the way the characters work with and against each other. Subtle may dazzle or mystify with his language, and Dol Common may keep them from destroying their three-way partnership, but Face is my favorite of the trio. He is the trickiest of them all. I like how he fares in the ending too, which leads me to believe Face is like a cat. =grin= To me he's likable in the same outrageous way!

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