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The Alchemist

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,424 ratings  ·  54 reviews
The Alchemist has been described as 'the greatest farce in the English language'. In this newly established edition, Ben Jonson's rich play offers intriguing insights into London life of the early seventeenth century. He satirises and celebrates the confusions and anarchy of a fast-moving city world populated by a fascinating array of diverse and devious characters.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1612)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,572)
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Anthony Vacca
Ben Jonson is the Martin Amis of early 17th century English theater. His prose is bloated with dense analogies and shows of learnedness that jarringly contrast with a preoccupation for criminal lowlifes and jokes about bodily secretions of both the sexy and non-sexy persuasions. Jonson also has a knack for ornamenting his rogue gallery of ne’er-do-wells with handles such as Doll Common, Subtle, Face, Dapper, Tribulation and Epicure Mammon. And, like Amis, unrelenting farce is pickled in picric s...more
David Sarkies
Making fun of the common people
(5 January 2014)

The general gist of this play among commentators on Goodreads is that much of the humour is dated which is why they don't think the play works all that well. It is not so much that people seem to hate the play, but rather feel that the content belongs to the past. That, and the fact that Johnson is overshadowed by Shakespeare, though I would suggest that Johnson wrote in the generation after Shakespeare, meaning that while he was a contemporary, it...more
Jesse
It is really very curious to see that this play is more famous, and more highly regarded, than Epicoene, for in the latter the humor never strays from joking upon aspects of vanity which have not changed much throughout time... but with The Alchemist, we see from the very title that the play is dated; and the play itself lives up to the title, for although the humor is indeed focused on the various customers and their gullibility, caused by their greed, the hocus-pocus means of bewildering these...more
Alexander Rolfe
Less accessible than most Elizabethan plays, but worth the effort. The ending is especially fun. I would really like to see it performed. And soon-- before I forget all the explanations from the footnotes. Parts of it remind me of various diets and cures being sold today. Also, the prologue's reference to "manners" being called "humours" shows we're not the first generation to be caught blaming our behavior on our biology (my brain made me do it!).
Suzette Kunz
This was an interesting play, mostly because Jonson is a contemporary of Shakespeare who has been pretty much overshadowed by him. He's no Shakespeare, but it was interesting. This is basically a farce about servants overtaking the house of a Lord who is away. They pretend to be alchemists, promising to turn metal into gold and all of these Londoners coming to them hoping to have all of their dreams come true.
Vicky N.

Ben Jonson is a great writer who's only mistake must be to have been born at the same time as the great Shakespeare. Full of satire and sexual innuendos, The Alchemist narrates the tale of two rogues, one the alchemist who promises people to turn all their items to gold and the other his helper. Matched with a prostitute who fools around with them it makes a comic tale of lust and greed.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in March 2001.

Like several others of Jonson's plays, The Alchemist is very long; in this case the length is used to build up from a slowish start, gradually increasing in pace until the farcical denoument.

A group of three tricksters, Face, Subtle and Dol Common, are using a borrowed house to get money through the pretended practise of alchemy, persuading people to pay to see wonders or to finance the supposed creation of gold from other metals. The major prob...more
Andrew
Nov 22, 2008 Andrew rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who think those alchemists have grown cocky and need to be knocked down a peg.
A huge waste of time. I read Volpone and thought it was great, it was funny had interesting characters etc. Then I read this one. It is almost the exact same plot as Volpone, with almost the exact same characters, only that they characters are conning people in a different way. The big problem is that so much of it's humor involve spoofing the science of alchemy which needs a great many footnotes to explain, (and remember jokes aren't funny if they need to be explained). Okay, imagine someone de...more
Sean
The last goodreads-er to write up this play complained that it was identical to Volpone in action and cast, a criticism clearly based on an intelligent reading of neither work. The Alchemist had some of the same clever implications about sin and its relationship to self-deception that you would expect from a committed moralist like Jonson, but it was bold enough to take London as its setting (dangerous for satirical comedies of the age), and the ultimate justice of the action's culmination was f...more
TAB
Maybe I set the non-Shakespeare so low that it surprised me, but this play eventually did pick up and I somewhat enjoyed it. I sure don't get it and outside of maybe one or two for a bit, I didn't care for any of the characters (nor am I entirely sure how they kept up the ruse of alchemy the whole time), but I could easily tell that performed this play would come alive and possibly mean something else to me entirely. Not that I am likely to come across a production of it I would think in the nex...more
Marty
This review goes in conjunction with my review of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, so I’ve copied the first paragraph and applied it to both. As a long-time, and still-growing fan of William Shakespeare, I was interested in his contemporaries. We know that Shakespeare has managed to infiltrate the canon of English teachers for centuries much to the dismay (and occasional delight) of their students. But how come Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, well regarded contemporaries, are only men...more
Andy Myer
Checked out this play by mistake, thinking it was the other alchemist. If you can get through the victorian era slang, its kind of interesting!
علی
بنجامین (بن) جانسن (1637- 1572)، بیشتر بخاطر کمدی هایش مشهور است، به ویژه "ولپن"، "کیمیاگر" و "رابطه ی بارتولومی".
نوشته اند که کیمیاگر 1610، یکی از سه نمایش نامه ی کمدی تاریخ است که از داستانی محکم و گفتگوهایی بی عیب برخوردار است. شیوع یک طاعون در لندن سبب می شود تا "آقای لاوویت" خانه و زندگی اش را به پیشخدمت همه کاره اش "جرمی" بسپارد و خود موقتن به حومه ی شهر برود. جرمی که از پس ارباب، "کاپتین فیس" می شود، از غیبت ارباب استفاده می کند و به یاری دوستانش "سابتل" و "دال" (یک فاحشه) خانه را به دفت...more
Claire
Read for Renaissance Literature module.
After receiving my reading list for September, I wondered down to my local library to get a head start. There I found the copy of Jonson's plays that I'd pondered over whilst procrastinating during my A levels. Until now I'd never read anything by Jonson, and even though it wasn't quite Shakespeare, he manages to tell a rather complex tale. The characters are distinctive and the plot twists and turns every page. I can't wait to study this play!
Lydia Ingram
I read this as a "sympathy read" with a teen who was assigned it for school. I suspect I'd probably enjoy it well enough if I were to see it produced on stage, but I've never cared much for reading plays on paper. As for the content, it's a somewhat interesting story with a well developed albeit simple plot; but the corrective satire is too obvious to feel clever, and I can't quite decide if I think the characters are sympathetic or not. The writing is a very nice example of quality work from it...more
Mohamed
It's a light novel. It speaks the idea of destiny, what's hidden by the future and the importance of perusing ones dreams and goals.

It chases Santiago a boy who travels to Egypt in search of his written destiny.

Although I have nothing against,it's not a bad novel. my problem was that people was giving it more than it deserves.


The writer(Paulo Coelho) has a unique style. It was well written
Mkfs
There's just really not much to say about The Alchemist.

It has the one-dimensional characters of a morality play. The language is uninteresting; the wordplay is not clever enough to have an enduring quality. The plot is barely worth mentioning: an academic, a bawd, and a butler perpetrate a series of frauds based around the claim they can produce The Philosopher's Stone.

Clearly a base crowd-pleaser that hasn't aged well. Jonson can do so much better.
Lee
Firstly, do get a copy with copious notes, otherwise, while you may recognise most of the words, the sentences will not make sense (I speak from personal experience). I enjoyed this play (once I'd got the notes). The theme is very contemporary - everyone in it is entirely motivated by self interest(with the possible exception of Surly) and nearly everyone is attempting to con everyone else. It could almost be set in current times with Subtle pretending to be a self help "think your way to riches...more
Alexandra Kulik
Certainly an interesting reading experience. I don't think I've ever read anything so simultaneously perplexing and comprehensible.
Rebecca Blakeney
This play was more difficult than Shakespeare, but the humor was very rewarding! I enjoyed it more the further I got into it.
Ahmet Uçar
for high school children. not bad.
Phillip
I'd say this is one of Johnson's best plays. It's a comedy, and it's very clearly a Johnson comedy--his usual biting satire and subtle mockery of social conventions and pretensions makes this play particularly interesting for those familar with Renaissance social customs. Unfortunately for many modern readers some of the satirical elements won't translate particularly well, but a good cast can pull it off without too much of a problem.
Mike Jensen
Possibly the old redhead's greatest play. A story of greed run amuck in which three greedy people try to use the greed of others to enrich themselves, but when it comes to greed, the only thing you can trust is for greedy people to be greedy. Jonson invites us to laugh at these people, who are all too much like so many people today.
Emylie
I got a little lost with all the characters (had to keep referring to the list at the beginning to keep them straight) but overall I enjoyed the play. I think this would probably be a fun performance to watch.
sologdin
Now, look, Percy, I don't mean to be pedantic or anything, but the color of gold is gold. That's why it's called gold. What you have discovered, if it has a name, is some Green.
Kevin
Ben Jonson was one of Shakespeare's contemporaries. He worked in the same theater. I struggled following this play. Not one of my favorites.
Duckie
This is best read accompanied by the Wikipedia plot summary, as there are several clever quips but the language is sometimes difficult to parse.
Elizabeth
May 07, 2009 Elizabeth marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dailylit, unfinished
Started, and stopped because I don't think this is something I can read in installments. Someday I'll get a hard copy and try again.
DeeDee H.M
you can see throug dr.jonson's word that he didn't judge or staier people ,he just wish to revel the most populer problems in his age .
Mandy
Wacky with a difficult plot to follow. I wish I liked Jonson more, but I just find his plays so mean-spirited.
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Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems. A man of vast reading and a seemingly insatiable appetite for controversy, Jonson had an unparalleled breadth of influence on Jacobean and...more
More about Ben Jonson...
Volpone The Complete Poems Bartholomew Fair Volpone and Other Plays Epicoene

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