The Alchemist by Ben Jonson (1572 – 1637)

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Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637)
Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637)

Dramatis Personae

 

Subtle, the Alchemist.

Face, the Housekeeper.

Dol Common, their Colleague.

Dapper, a Lawyer’s Clerk.

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.

Neighbours.

Officers, Attendants, etc.

 

Scene: London.

The cover of the book
The cover of the book

A room in Lovewit’s house.

 

Enter Face, in a Captain’s uniform, with his sword drawn and subtle with a vial, quarrelling, and followed by Dol Common.

 

FACE. Believe ‘t, I will.

 

SUB. Thy worst. I fart at thee.

 

DOL. Have you your wits? why, gentlemen! for love—

 

FACE. Sirrah, I’ll strip you—

 

SUB. What to do? lick figs

Out at my—

 

FACE. Rogue, rogue!—out of all your sleights.

 

DOL. Nay, look ye, sovereign, general, are you madmen?

 

SUB. O, let the wild sheep loose. I’ll gum your silks

With good strong water, an you come.

 

DOL. Will you have

The neighbours hear you? will you betray all?

Hark! I hear somebody.

 

FACE. Sirrah—

 

SUB. I shall mar

All that the tailor has made, if you approach.

 

FACE. You most notorious whelp, you insolent slave,

Dare you do this?

 

SUB. Yes, faith; yes, faith.

 

FACE. Why, who

Am I, my mungrel? who am I?

 

SUB. I’ll tell you.,

Since you know not yourself.

 

FACE. Speak lower, rogue.

 

SUB. Yes, faith; yes, faith. FACE. Why, who Am I, my mungrel? who am I?
SUB. Yes, faith; yes, faith. FACE. Why, who Am I, my mungrel? who am I?

SUB. Yes, you were once (time’s not long past) the good,

Honest, plain, livery-three-pound-thrum, that kept

Your master’s worship’s house here in the Friars,

For the vacations—

 

FACE. Will you be so loud?

 

SUB. Since, by my means, translated suburb-captain.

 

FACE. By your means, doctor dog!

 

SUB. Within man’s memory,

All this I speak of.

 

FACE. Why, I pray you, have I

Been countenanced by you, or you by me?

Do but collect, sir, where I met you first.

 

SUB. I do not hear well.

 

FACE. Not of this, I think it.

But I shall put you in mind, sir;—at Pie-corner,

Taking your meal of steam in, from cooks’ stalls,

Where, like the father of hunger, you did walk

Piteously costive, with your pinch’d-horn-nose,

And your complexion of the Roman wash,

Stuck full of black and melancholic worms,

Like powder corns shot at the artillery-yard.

 

SUB. I wish you could advance your voice a little.

 

FACE. When you went pinn’d up in the several rags

You had raked and pick’d from dunghills, before day;

Your feet in mouldy slippers, for your kibes;

A felt of rug, and a thin threaden cloke,

That scarce would cover your no buttocks—

 

SUB. So, sir!

 

FACE. When all your alchemy, and your algebra,

Your minerals, vegetals, and animals,

Your conjuring, cozening, and your dozen of trades,

Could not relieve your corps with so much linen

Would make you tinder, but to see a fire;

I gave you countenance, credit for your coals,

Your stills, your glasses, your materials;

Built you a furnace, drew you customers,

Advanced all your black arts; lent you, beside,

A house to practise in—

 

SUB. Your master’s house!

...Built you a furnace, drew you customers, Advanced all your black arts; lent you, beside, A house to practise in— SUB. Your master's house!
...Built you a furnace, drew you customers, Advanced all your black arts; lent you, beside, A house to practise in— SUB. Your master's house!

FACE. Where you have studied the more thriving skill

 Of bawdry since.

 

SUB. Yes, in your master’s house.

You and the rats here kept possession.

Make it not strange. I know you were one could keep

The buttery-hatch still lock’d, and save the chippings,

Sell the dole beer to aqua-vitae men,

The which, together with your Christmas vails

At post-and-pair, your letting out of counters,

Made you a pretty stock, some twenty marks,

And gave you credit to converse with cobwebs,

Here, since your mistress’ death hath broke up house.

 

FACE. You might talk softlier, rascal.

 

SUB. No, you scarab,

I’ll thunder you in pieces: I will teach you

How to beware to tempt a Fury again,

That carries tempest in his hand and voice.

 

FACE. The place has made you valiant.

 

SUB. No, your clothes.—

Thou vermin, have I ta’en thee out of dung,

So poor, so wretched, when no living thing

Would keep thee company, but a spider, or worse?

Rais’d thee from brooms, and dust, and watering-pots,

Sublimed thee, and exalted thee, and fix’d thee

In the third region, call’d our state of grace?

 

Wrought thee to spirit, to quintessence, with pains

Would twice have won me the philosopher’s work?

Put thee in words and fashion, made thee fit

For more than ordinary fellowships?

Giv’n thee thy oaths, thy quarrelling dimensions,

Thy rules to cheat at horse-race, cock-pit, cards,

Dice, or whatever gallant tincture else?

Made thee a second in mine own great art?

And have I this for thanks! Do you rebel,

Do you fly out in the projection?

Would you be gone now?

 

DOL. Gentlemen, what mean you?

Will you mar all?

 

SUB. Slave, thou hadst had no name—

 

DOL. Will you undo yourselves with civil war?

 

SUB. Never been known, past equi clibanum,

The heat of horse-dung, under ground, in cellars,

Or an ale-house darker than deaf John’s; been lost

To all mankind, but laundresses and tapsters,

Had not I been.

...Or an ale-house darker than deaf John's; been lost To all mankind, but laundresses and tapsters, Had not I been.
...Or an ale-house darker than deaf John's; been lost To all mankind, but laundresses and tapsters, Had not I been.

DOL. Do you know who hears you, sovereign?

 

FACE. Sirrah—

 

DOL. Nay, general, I thought you were civil.

 

FACE. I shall turn desperate, if you grow thus loud.

 

SUB. And hang thyself, I care not.

 

FACE. Hang thee, collier,

And all thy pots, and pans, in picture, I will,

Since thou hast moved me—

 

DOL. O, this will o’erthrow all.

 

FACE. Write thee up bawd in Paul’s, have all thy tricks

Of cozening with a hollow cole, dust, scrapings,

Searching for things lost, with a sieve and sheers,

Erecting figures in your rows of houses,

And taking in of shadows with a glass,

Told in red letters; and a face cut for thee,

Worse than Gamaliel Ratsey’s.

 

DOL. Are you sound?

Have you your senses, masters?

 

FACE. I will have

A book, but barely reckoning thy impostures,

Shall prove a true philosopher’s stone to printers.

 

SUB. Away, you trencher-rascal!

 

FACE. Out, you dog-leech!

The vomit of all prisons—

 

DOL. Will you be

Your own destructions, gentlemen?

 

FACE. Still spew’d out

For lying too heavy on the basket.

 

SUB. Cheater!

 

FACE. Bawd!

 

SUB. Cow-herd!

 

FACE. Conjurer!

 

SUB. Cut-purse!

 

FACE. Witch!

 

DOL. O me!

We are ruin’d, lost! have you no more regard

To your reputations? where’s your judgment? ‘slight,

Have yet some care of me, of your republic—

 

FACE. Away, this brach! I’ll bring thee, rogue, within

The statute of sorcery, tricesimo tertio

Of Harry the Eighth: ay, and perhaps thy neck

Within a noose, for laundring gold and barbing it.

 

DOL [SNATCHES FACE’S SWORD]. You’ll bring your head within

a cockscomb, will you?

And you, sir, with your menstrue—

[Dashes Subtle’s vial out of his hand.]

Gather it up.—

‘Sdeath, you abominable pair of stinkards,

Leave off your barking, and grow one again,

Or, by the light that shines, I’ll cut your throats.

I’ll not be made a prey unto the marshal,

For ne’er a snarling dog-bolt of you both.

Have you together cozen’d all this while,

And all the world, and shall it now be said,

You’ve made most courteous shift to cozen yourselves?

[TO FACE.]

You will accuse him! you will “bring him in

Within the statute!” Who shall take your word?

A whoreson, upstart, apocryphal captain,

Whom not a Puritan in Blackfriars will trust

So much as for a feather:

[TO SUBTLE.]

and you, too,

Will give the cause, forsooth! you will insult,

And claim a primacy in the divisions!

You must be chief! as if you only had

The powder to project with, and the work

Were not begun out of equality?

The venture tripartite? all things in common?

Without priority? ‘Sdeath! you perpetual curs,

Fall to your couples again, and cozen kindly,

And heartily, and lovingly, as you should,

And lose not the beginning of a term,

Or, by this hand, I shall grow factious too,

And take my part, and quit you.

...And lose not the beginning of a term, Or, by this hand, I shall grow factious too, And take my part, and quit you
...And lose not the beginning of a term, Or, by this hand, I shall grow factious too, And take my part, and quit you

FACE. ‘Tis his fault;

He ever murmurs, and objects his pains,

And says, the weight of all lies upon him.

 

SUB. Why, so it does.

 

DOL. How does it? do not we

Sustain our parts?

 

SUB. Yes, but they are not equal.

 

DOL. Why, if your part exceed to-day, I hope

Ours may, to-morrow match it.

 

SUB. Ay, they MAY.

 

DOL. May, murmuring mastiff! ay, and do. Death on me!

Help me to throttle him.

 

[Seizes Sub by the throat.]

All Images: Google

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