The Alchemist | Book Review |Inclined Scorpio | Ben Johnson
Cover page of The Alchemist by Ben Johnson

“I hate traditions;

I do not trust them—


They are Popish, all!

I will not peace. I will not—


Please the profane; to grieve the godly; I may not”.

Ananias and Tribulation Wholesome, The Alchemist

‘The Alchemist’  is a comic play scripted ✍️ by Ben Johnson, the contemporary of William Shakespeare. The play was initially performed by the King’s Men in 1610. ‘The Alchemist’ satirises 😏 how the greed 😔 induced human beings aspire for more of all the impossible things along with the final realisation 😮 or disappointment 😕. The plot revolves around Face, Subtle, Doll Common and their customers who seek their help. 

Face, Subtle and Doll Common

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson | Inclined Scorpio
Doll Common, Face and Subtle from the play The Alchemist

Who is the alchemist in ‘The Alchemist’? Is it just one or many?

Face, Subtle and Doll Common are the trio criminal associates 🤝 living in Lovewit’s house 🏡 . Lovewit has left the city 🏙 to his country house as a plague 🦠 broke out. Face is the butler of Lovewit, actually named Jeremy. But Face, in the absence of Lovewit, uses the house for fraudulent actions 🚫. He even uses the house as a brothel with Doll Common as the prostitute. Subtle disguises as a doctor of alchemy 🧪 and mystic. 

The First Victim of the Alchemist : Dapper

Dapper is greedy 💰 along with the will to do whatever they ask to achieve his wish. He is a law clerk 👨‍⚖️ and seeks the help of Subtle, the doctor of alchemy inorder to help him win at the gamblings 🎲 and cards ♠️. Subtle hesitates to do anything until Dapper promises 🤝 half of his winnings shared among Subtle and Face. 

What is the Ritual Suggested by the Alchemist? 

Subtle suggests to seek the help of Fairy Queen 🧚‍♂️ after a ritual completed from his home. Subtle recommends to drop 💧 vinegar upon his nose 👃 and eyes 👀, clean the tips of his fingers and then says to ‘buzz’ and ‘hum’ three times. Doll dresses as the Fairy Queen when Dapper arrives and dresses him in a petticoat 👗, blindfolds him while Subtle and Face run, pinching him guising as the fairies 🧚‍♀️ of the Fairy Queen. He is gagged in rag and locked 🔒 in the bathroom 🛀 when Mammon arrive. 

Abel Drugger: The Tobacconist 🍁

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson |Inclined Scorpio | Book Review | Jacobean Drama
Abel Druggger, another victim of the play, ‘The Alchemist’

Abel Drugger, the tobacconist 🍁 visits Face amd Subtle who wishes to open 🔓 a new shop and has come to seek advice 🗣️ from Subtle. Drugger is recommended to keep a magnet below the threshold of his door 🚪 to attract business and predicts his success in business. He also recommends that his business should face north and all these would even lead him to the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life 😯. 

Sir Epicure Mammon for the Philosopher’s Stone 

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson |Inclined Scorpio | Jacobean Drama
Sir Epicure Mammon

“Alchemy is a pretty kind of game, / Somewhat like tricks o’ the cards, to cheat a man / With charming.”

Pertinax Surly

Sir Epicure Mammon arrives with his friend Surly 👬 for the philosopher’s stone which is in ‘projection’, the final alchemic stage. Surly, his friend warns him not to believe 😑 Face and Subtle but Mammon refuses to believe him. He is greedy as any other character in the play and wants to become rich. He also wishes to cure the sick 🤒. 

“For I do mean

To have a list of wives and concubines

Equal with Solomon, who had the stone

Alike with me; and I will make me a back

With the elixir that shall be as tough

As Hercules, to encounter fifty a night”.

Sir Epicure Mammon

Mammon desires for material richness 💴 as well as  for incomparable sexual powers. He desires of a sexual power 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👨 that helps him to have sex with fifty women a single night. He is then attracted ☺️ to Doll about whom Surly warns and tells him this place is a brothel. But Mammon, as always ignores him 🙉. 

Ananias: The Anabaptist in ‘The Alchemist’

Ananias is an anabaptist who has asked for the philosopher’s stone even before Mammon. But it isn’t delivered and Ananias has come to reveal his decision of non-payment till the ‘projection’ is seen by him. Subtle gets angry hearing Ananias 😡 and kicks off him, and reveals to contact only with his pastor, Tribulation Wholesome. 

Kester and Dame Pliant

Drugger introduces Dame Pliant to Face, who is a rich widow 💸 and has come to town with her brother Kester. Kester is in search 🔎 of an opportunity that allows him to live with his quarrelling skills 👊 and wit. Kester wants someone to teach him that kind of living. Kester is also in search 🧐 of an aristocrat to marry 👰 her. Drugger promises to bring her, but an argument arises as Subtle and Face, both are interested in her ☺️. 

Who will marry Dame Pliant?  Is Doll aware of this plan? 🤔 

Meet Tribunal Wholesome

Tribunal Wholesome comes with the Anabaptist and apologises for the earlier visit but both of them do not trust Subtle. He then leaves with Ananias to check if casting money 💷 is lawful as Subtle has agreed to teach to melt pewter (an alloy of copper with tin/lead/antimony) to cast Dutch money. 

Will Dapper and Mammon Meet? 

Dapper comes after his rituals and Doll along with Subtle and Face do some comic 😆 and nonsense 😶 rituals blindfolding 🙈 Dapper. The second knock from Mammon frightems them and Mammon is ragged and locked in the toilet. 

Mammon Meets Doll

Mammon has come with the metal ⛓️ and iron 🔗 for the philosopher’s stone but realising that he is busy in the laboratory 🔬 as Face reveals, he asks about Doll. Face warns not to contact her with evil 😈 intentions as she is a rare scholar 📚 and an aristocrat’s sister and Subtle would not hand over the stone ❌ if he does anything. Both of them meet and move to the garden for some privacy 🔏. 

Subtle with Kestrel and Dame Pliant

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson | Inclined Scorpio
Dame Pliant and Kestrel

Subtle agrees to teach Kestrel how to be witty and  to live with his wit. He also attempts to read the palms 🤲 of Dame Pliant and predicts that she would soon marry 👰  and aristocrat 🤵. They are taken to his office. 

The Alchemist | Ben Johnson | Inclined Scorpio
Subtle reads the palm of Dame Pliant in the play ‘The Alchemist’

Surly as the Spaniard 

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson |Inclined Scorpio | Book Review
Surly/ The Spaniard

Surly disguises as Spaniard 🙂 to prove their fraudulence. He pretends 😐 not to know English while Face and Subtle converses themselves in English and says that they will deceive him 🤬. Surly, the Spaniard notes all these. 

“Pray you, sir, stay.

Rather than I’ll be brayed, sir, I’ll believe,

That alchemy is a pretty kind of game,

Somewhat like tricks o’the cards, to cheat a man

With charming”.

Surly / The Spaniard

Face believes that he has come for Doll 👉 who is spending time with Mammon. During this time, Face convinces Kestrel that the Spaniard is the best aristocrat 💁‍♂️ to which Subtle refuses as he desires to have Dame Pliant. But finally Dame Pliant and Spaniard meet in private. 

Will Spaniard shut his mouth 🤐 or reveals their deception to Dame Pliant? 

Doll and Mammon Fights 😡

“Sweet Madame, let me be particular—

Particular, sir? I pray you, know your distance”.

Doll Common and Sir Epicure Mammon

Mammon lustfully 💏 behaves with Doll for which she leaves the place. Face then reveales that the ‘projection’ will be held back a month ⏪ but suddenly hears an explosive sound 💣 and Face finally reves that the stone has burst into flames 🔥. Mammon leaves believing that he has been punished for his sin which cost him his most beloved philosopher’s stone 😓. 

Will Dame Pliant believe Surly? 

Surly reveals everything to Dame Pliant but Kestrel refuses 🙅‍♂️ to believe him and checks out the skills taught by Subtle. But Lovewit, the master of Face returns 👨‍⚖️. 

What will happen to Jeremy, the Butler, who has housed Lovewit’s home with criminals? 🙄 Will he be kicked off? What awaits the alchemists?

Lovewit is Back, Face Back to Jeremy 

Lovewit is informed by his neighbours that his house was occupied by many in his absence 🤬. He is received by Face, who shaves and appears as Jeremy, the butler 🙎🏻‍♂️. He calms Lovewit promising 🤝 to get him 🤵 to Dame Pliant if he shuts his mouth 🤫. 

Lovewit Marries Dame Pliant 💍

The victims of Face comes to Lovewit’s house bit he refuses to accept them. Meanwhile, Dapper comes out of his rag who still wants to meet the Fairy 🧚‍♂️ Queen. Doll gifts him a bird 🐦 which will bring him fortunes and treasures 💰. He then leaves the place. 

The Alchemist | Ben Johnson | Inclined Scorpio
Doll’s attempt to covince Dapper as the Fairy Queen in ‘The Alchemist’

Lovewit tells Subtle and Do to leave before police 👮 arrives and both of them are angry 😡 for being deceived and victimised by Face. The police is convinced by Lovewit’s statement that some criminals broke into his house. The play ends with Lovewit announcing 📢 his happiness with his new wife, Dame Pliant. Face is happy as he washes 🌊 himself from the evils. 

The Alchemist |Ben Johnson | Inclined Scorpio | Book Review
The Alchemist – Stage

Alchemy or transformation 🔃 is portrayed in the play ‘The Alchemist’ as the major characters like Face, Subtle and Doll Common undergoes certain changes within the play. The criminal minds disguise 🗿 themselves as somebody noble to deceive multiples. The names of these people reveal the character of them. Face has many faces 🎭 in the play, Subtle is in contrast to his name and Doll Common is common to all. ‘The Alchemist‘ is a comic play satirising the Jacobean period ⏳in London. 

The Alchemist – On Sale 🥶


Naeema Jalal Inclined Scorpio

Naeema Jaleel

Writer at Inclined Scorpio

On an extended process of giving birth to myself structuring own concepts & beliefs.

Inclined Scorpio

Inclined Scorpio


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Naeema Jaleel

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Writer at Inclined Scorpio



Shaurva Suri · July 13, 2021 at 8:57 pm

Clean piece of art. Keep writing


Hritik · February 14, 2022 at 1:21 am

Thanks Naeema. All your blogs are top-notch.

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