Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Alchemist” as Want to Read:
The Alchemist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Alchemist

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,441 Ratings  ·  86 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Alchemist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Alchemist

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Lisa
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Surprise!

I didn't expect to be able to give The Alchemist a rating above one star, as I didn't know that there was an exquisite alternative version, a prequel so to say, written several centuries before the rubbish novel, in 1610, showing the reverse development of human intelligence and wit from then until the arrival of Coelho, when sheepish worship of empty words and stupid comparisons became popular. The omens however are provided (much to my disturbance) in the earlier text already, for in
...more
David Sarkies
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy
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
Anthony Vacca
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A servant, a thief, and a whore walk into a bar......and that's essentially how this rollicking good comedy from Elizabethan England gets started. The servant's master has gone out of town for a few months to escape the plague, and so the servant goes to a local establishment, finds a local troublemaker and prostitute, and convinces them to set up camp with him in his master's house, pretend to be an alchemist and his assistants, and rip people off. It's a brilliant plan, and relies, of course, ...more
Renée Paule
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After many years I've just re-read this lovely play. I'd forgotten most of the trickery and comedy. Loved it.
Jonfaith
A wench is a rare bait, with which a man
No sooner's taken, but he straight firks mad.


Funny that firk, it means many things: to both expel and to fuck as well as become or carry. I felt only the fervor of the former in my experience with brother Ben Jonson. Anthony Vacca has noted here on GR that Jonson was the Marty Amis of the Elizabethan underbelly. That might just be correct. It didn't help my flailing. Such wasn't pretty or becoming.
Ali
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
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
Zeynep
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boun, drama
the second line of this play reads ''i fart at thee'' and somehow it only gets better.
Jesse
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alexander Rolfe
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, fiction, classics

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.
James Violand
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: only those with gray matter.
Shelves: own
Hilarious! Oh, if only we were able to better understand the spoken English of the early seventeenth century, this play would still draw the same crowds that it had in London! The rapier wit is unassailable. Jonson shows his brilliance as a playwright and as an expert in Ancient Greece and Rome, and does so in such an unassuming way, that all London adored him.
The fault with this play lies only in the manner of its presentation. This volume is terrible. It seems to have been published primarily
...more
Wendy
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isn't it weird how Shakespeare is the only pre-1800s Western European playwright most of us read? In the *mumble mumble* years since high school, I've probably read or attended performances of roughly a dozen plays by the Bard. (Apparently it took 100 monkeys typing non-stop for 400 years or something to produce all those plays. I need to hire some of them to write for me, too.) What about all those other playwrights working around the same time--bunch of hacks, right? Not worth our time.

Poor B
...more
Brendan Prawdzik
Jonson, often bumped for Shakespeare is the funniest and most sophisticated Jacobean dramatist. The Alchemist is his best play.
Simon Mcleish
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Lee
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Phillip
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
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.
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!
Tünde Ecem Kutlu
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: university
Ben Jonson is amazing. This is an extremely funny play. I didn't necessarily enjoy the beginning because I couldn't really get used to the play's pace but towards the end it was so good I couldn't stop myself from reading it. I think it was a very clever choice of Jonson's that the play goes in real time and it gives the feeling of being one of the "guests" cozened by Face and Subtle. Since this is a city comedy, there were a lot of parts I didn't understand and the footnotes were extremely long ...more
Tina Naples
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This play is very funny when read aloud. It is full of satire about the gullible and greedy of Jonson's time. Much has been written previously about Jonson's relationship with his contemporary. I am currently reading a pamphlet about this which I will put up on here in case there is any interest. It's quite an old one and will not be particularly easy to get hold of without access to a research library.
Kathleen Stebbins
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was reading this for a Renascence lit class, and I gotta say I was impressed. It's really quite entertaining.

Many of the themes are still relevant today, everyone enjoys a con man's game, and this is one such play but with them hustling multiple people with them coming and going almost on top of each other, it adds to the comedy.

Of everyone hustled, I enjoyed Dapper the most, poor guy had it almost the worst in that toilet the whole time.
Amanda
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A city comedy before city comedies. So full of plots, intrigues, farce and social inversion it can be difficult to keep it straight. Led by the unholy triumvirate of Subtle, Farce and Doll, every class of London society gets a taste of their own comeuppance before the return of the master and the restoration of order. Or is it?
Pam
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Difficult to understand and convoluted.
Marybeth
* Read for my Advanced Studies in Renaissance Literature class
Emily
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I never quite know how to rate plays. I'll come back to review this later.
Anca
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure I missed some cultural and historical references in this satire, but I particularly enjoyed all the weird and fanciful food references, like shrimp cooked in butter made from dolphin's milk.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Changeling
  • The Knight of the Burning Pestle
  • The Spanish Tragedy
  • The White Devil
  • The Jew of Malta
  • 'Tis Pity She's a Whore
  • All for Love
  • Polyeucte
  • The Shoemaker's Holiday
  • Three Jacobean Tragedies: The White Devil; The Revenger's Tragedy; The Changeling
  • Samson Agonistes
  • The Malcontent
  • The Rivals
  • The Country Wife
  • The Beaux' Stratagem
22583
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...