Source text for this digital edition:
Jonson, Ben. The Alchemist. Edited by David Bevington. In: Bevington, David et al. (eds.). Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology. New York: W W Norton, 2001. p. 868-959.
- Vives Martínez, Mireia
Note on this digital edition
Reproduced with kind permission by W. W. Norton & Company. ©W. W. Norton & Company
THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY
|SUBTLE the alchemist|
|FACE the housekeeper|
|DOLL Common their colleague|
|DAPPER a clerk|
|[Abel] DRUGGER a tobacco man|
|LOVEWIT master of the house|
|[Sir] Epicure MAMMON a knight|
|[Pertinax] SURLY a gamester|
|TRIBULATION [Wholesome] a pastor of Amsterdam|
|ANANIAS a deacon there|
|KASTRIL the angry boy|
|Dame PLIANT his sister, a widow|
To the Reader
If thou be'st more, thou art an understander, and then I trust
thee. If thou art one that tak'st up, and but a pretender, beware
at what hands thou receiv'st thy commodity; for thou wert
never more fair in the way to be cozened (than in this age) in
poetry, especially in plays, wherein, now, the concupiscence of
dances and antics so reigneth, as to run away from Nature
and be afraid of her is the only point of art that tickles the
spectators. But how out of purpose and place do I name art?
When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of
it, and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders
of all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms,
when they understand not the things, think to get off wittily
with their ignorance. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned
and sufficient for this by the many, through their excellent
vice of judgment. For they commend writers as they do fencers
or wrestlers, who, if they come in robustiously and put for
it with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver
fellows, when many times their own rudeness is the cause of
their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that
boisterous force the foil. I deny not but that these men, who
always seek to do more than enough, may sometime happen
on some thing that is good and great; but very seldom, and
when it comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It
sticks out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid
and vile about it, as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness
than a faint shadow. I speak not this out of a hope to do
good on any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to
the question of theirs and mine, the worse would find more
suffrages, because the most favor common errors. But I give
thee this warning, that there is a great difference between
those that (to gain the opinion of copy) utter all they can, however
unfitly, and those that use election and a mean. For it is
only the disease of the unskillful to think rude things greater
than polished, or scattered more numerous than composed.
T he sickness hot, a master quit for fear
H is house in town, and left one servant there.
E ase him corrupted, and gave means to know
A cheater and his punk, who, now brought low,
L eaving their narrow practice, were become
C oz'ners at large; and, only wanting some
H ouse to set up, with him they here contract
E ach for a share, and all begin to act.
M uch company they draw, and much abuse,
I n casting figures, telling fortunes, news,
S elling of flies, flat bawdry, with the stone
T ill it and they and all in fume are gone.
Fortune, that favors fools, these two short hours
We wish away, both for your sakes and ours,
Judging spectators, and desire in place
To th'author justice, to ourselves but grace.
Our scene is London, 'cause we would make known
No country's mirth is better than our own.
No clime breeds better matter for your whore,
Bawd, squire, impostor, many persons more,
Whose manners, now called humors, feed the stage,
And which have still been subject for the rage
Or spleen of comic writers. Though this pen
Did never aim to grieve, but better, men,
Howe'er the age he lives in doth endure
Then vices that she breeds above their cure.
But when the wholesome remedies are sweet,
And in their working gain and profit meet,
He hopes to find no spirit so much diseased
But will with such fair correctives be pleased;
For here he doth not fear who can apply.
If there be any that will sit so nigh
Unto the stream to look what it doth run,
They shall find things they'd think or wish were done,
They are so natural follies, but so shown
As even the doers may see and yet not own.