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23. Ben Jonson, The Alchemist (1610)

Rebecca Yearling


This chapter situates Ben Jonson’s drama within the context of the rise of satire and city comedy in the early seventeenth century. It explores the relationship between Jonson’s comedies and the real world of contemporary London, and his interest in the idea of the play as a mirror to society. In the close readings section, it proceeds to examine The Alchemist’s use of alchemy as a metaphor for human change and transformation, and the way in which Jonson uses technical theatrical devices, such as the classical unities and metatheatricality, as didactic strategies. The final section explores the play’s reception from 1610 up to the present day, focusing particularly on the vexed question of the play’s ending and its ultimate moral message.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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