The alchemist ben jonson essays

A Collection of Critical Essays. A Collection of Critical Essays — by L. RBookmark this page Ben Jonson: The Alchemist is a comedy by English playwright Ben Jonson.

The alchemist ben jonson essays

Despite a somewhat muddled denouement, the play is a masterpiece of construction. As far as is known, the plot is original with Jonson. In this play, Jonson the artist supersedes Jonson the moralist: His protagonist, it should be noted, is not punished for his misdeeds.

The complexities of life in London during the The alchemist ben jonson essays era, coupled with limited general scientific understanding, help account for the widespread faith in astrology and alchemy of the time.

This faith in such branches of knowledge helped make them leading gimmicks for swindles.


The critical response to the play has been intriguing. Several modern commentators have contended that, although The Alchemist does cleave to the classical ideals, it is not a proper comedy, has no plot at all, and consists merely of a series of linked incidents.

The alchemist ben jonson essays

They also disliked his unemotional tone, controlled plots, and intellectual detachment. Although The Alchemist lacks none of these features, they do not render it deficient.


The classical ideals are so well met in The Alchemist that the play is, in its own way, a small classical masterpiece.

Jonson observes unity of time, in that the dramatic situation is enacted in the same amount of time that it would take in real life. The discrete beginning, middle, and inevitable conclusion of the play provide for unity of action.

Faithfulness to classical concepts, however, is not the only virtue of The Alchemist. A talented actor as well as a writer of poetry, masques, criticism, and tragic and comic plays, Jonson was a masterful manipulator of theatrical effects. The opening argument of The Alchemist, presented in antic verse, catapults the play headlong into a rollicking, boisterous, bawdy life of its own.

The simple yet ingenious plot provides for the multiplicity of incident dear to the Renaissance heart; costume, disguise, and transmutation of identity are similarly exploited. The internal development is more complex than some critics suggest. The characters are introduced in approximate order of their social status and rapacity.

As these advance, so does the degree of cozening inflicted by Face and Subtle, and this progression reinforces the cohesiveness of the play. Although the fates of the characters are not contingent, since all are frauds or dupes, they interact in complex and amusing ways.

These interactions, which become so dense that eventually Face and Subtle have their victims cozening each other, engender organic unity and dramatic tension simultaneously. As the play advances, the number of characters on stage increases, the pace quickens, and the scenes grow shorter.

The climax is predictable but impressive, the entire proceeding animated by a genuine and hearty spirit. The underworld slang and alchemical jargon used by the protagonists lend color and authenticity. Double entendres and simultaneous dialogue, which originated with Jonson, add to the effect.

Most impressive, perhaps, is the way Subtle and Face use a debased eloquence in perpetrating their frauds. The Alchemist dramatizes what might happen when moral order is suspended by plague in London. Lovewit, representing responsible society, jettisons civic responsibility and flees the city, leaving behind only knaves and fools.

Although the reader is reminded early that order will be restored eventually, society in the hands of the unscrupulous degenerates into chaos. Jonson intends to be instructive, even if it means instructing by ridicule. The classicist in him wants to restore to England some of the glory of Augustan Rome.

The alchemist ben jonson essays

The Renaissance saw a shift in emphasis from the world of the Church to the world of experience, but while Jonson set an extremely worldly stage, his morality was severe and almost medieval.

His moral values, clear from the first scene on, are constantly reiterated as The Alchemist indicts vain and wishful thinking and directs the mind to the contemplation of virtue.The Alchemist (Jonson): Essay Q&A, Free Study Guides and book notes including comprehensive chapter analysis, complete summary analysis, author biography information, character profiles, theme analysis, metaphor analysis, and top ten quotes on classic literature.

The Alchemist is a comedy by English playwright Ben Jonson. First performed in by the King's Men, it is generally considered Jonson's best and most characteristic comedy; Samuel Taylor Coleridge considered it had one of the three most perfect plots in literature.

Barton, Anne. Ben Jonson: Dramatist. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, In addition to its introduction to The Alchemist, offers an essential discussion of the meaning and use.

Free To Penshurst by Ben Jonson papers, essays, and research papers.

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My Account. Your search returned over essays for "To It will take comprehensive discussion on “Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist” and “William Shakespeare’s The Tempest”. Jonson and Shakespeare were contemporaries with more immediately recognizable common ground.

The Alchemist study guide contains a biography of Ben Jonson, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

About The Alchemist (Jonson).

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Introduction. In , England's first professional playhouse, "The Theatre", was established, heralding a golden age of English drama. From this momentous date until the eve of the civil war in , when Parliament decreed that "publike Stage-Playes shall cease, and bee forborne", England boasted such talents as Marlowe, Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

The Alchemist Critical Essays -