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Samuel Taylor Coleridge said of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist that it had one out of the three most perfect plots in literature. This play, with its sharp portrayal of human folly, is considered by many to be Jonson's best comedy. First performed 1610, its popularity has endured to this day.
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ACT 1. SCENE 1.1.
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, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.]
SUB. Dorothy! mistress Dorothy! 'Ods precious, I'll do any thing. What do you mean?
DOL. Because o' your fermentation and cibation?
SUB. Not I, by heaven --
DOL. Your Sol and Luna [TO FACE.] -- help me.
SUB. Would I were hang'd then? I'll conform myself.
DOL. Will you, sir? do so then, and quickly: swear.
SUB. What should I swear?
DOL. To leave your faction, sir, And labour kindly in the common work.
SUB. Let me not breathe if I meant aught beside. I only used those speeches as a spur To him.
DOL. I hope we need no spurs, sir. Do we?
FACE. 'Slid, prove to-day, who shall shark best.
DOL. Yes, and work close and friendly.
SUB. 'Slight, the knot Shall grow the stronger for this breach, with me.
[THEY SHAKE HANDS.]
DOL. Why, so, my good baboons! Shall we go make A sort of sober, scurvy, precise neighbours, That scarce have smiled twice since the king came in, A feast of laughter at our follies? Rascals, Would run themselves from breath, to see me ride, Or you t' have but a hole to thrust your heads in, For which you should pay ear-rent? No, agree. And may don Provost ride a feasting long, In his old velvet jerkin and stain'd scarfs, My noble sovereign, and worthy general, Ere we contribute a new crewel garter To his most worsted worship.
SUB. Royal Dol! Spoken like Claridiana, and thyself.
FACE. For which at supper, thou shalt sit in triumph, And not be styled Dol Common, but Dol Proper, Dol Singular: the longest cut at night, Shall draw thee for his Doll Particular.
[BELL RINGS WITHOUT.]
SUB. Who's that? one rings. To the window, Dol: [EXIT DOL.] -- pray heaven, The master do not trouble us this quarter.
FACE. O, fear not him. While there dies one a week O' the plague, he's safe, from thinking toward London. Beside, he's busy at his hop-yards now; I had a letter from him. If he do, He'll send such word, for airing of the house, As you shall have sufficient time to quit it: Though we break up a fortnight, 'tis no matter.
SUB. Who is it, Dol?
DOL. A fine young quodling.
FACE. O, My lawyer's clerk, I lighted on last night, In Holborn, at the Dagger. He would have (I told you of him) a familiar, To rifle with at horses, and win cups.
DOL. O, let him in.
SUB. Stay. Who shall do't?
FACE. Get you Your robes on: I will meet him as going out.
DOL. And what shall I do?
FACE. Not be seen; away! [EXIT DOL.] Seem you very reserv'd.
FACE [ALOUD AND RETIRING]. God be wi' you, sir, I pray you let him know that I was here: His name is Dapper. I would gladly have staid, but --
DAP [WITHIN]. Captain, I am here.
FACE. Who's that? -- He's come, I think, doctor.
Good faith, sir, I was going away.
DAP. In truth I am very sorry, captain.
FACE. But I thought Sure I should meet you.
DAP. Ay, I am very glad. I had a scurvy writ or two to make, And I had lent my watch last night to one That dines to-day at the sheriff's, and so was robb'd Of my past-time. [RE-ENTER SUBTLE IN HIS VELVET CAP AND GOWN.] Is this the cunning-man?
FACE. This is his worship.
DAP. Is he a doctor?
DAP. And have you broke with him, captain?
DAP. And how?
FACE. Faith, he does make the matter, sir, so dainty I know not what to say.
DAP. Not so, good captain.
FACE. Would I were fairly rid of it, believe me.
DAP. Nay, now you grieve me, sir. Why should you wish so? I dare assure you, I'll not be ungrateful.
FACE. I cannot think you will, sir. But the law Is such a thing -- and then he says, Read's matter Falling so lately.
DAP. Read! he was an ass, And dealt, sir, with a fool.
FACE. It was a clerk, sir.
DAP. A clerk!
FACE. Nay, hear me, sir. You know the law Better, I think --
DAP. I should, sir, and the danger: You know, I shewed the statute to you.
FACE. You did so.
DAP. And will I tell then! By this hand of flesh, Would it might never write good court-hand more, If I discover. What do you think of me, That I am a chiaus?
FACE. What's that?
DAP. The Turk was here. As one would say, do you think I am a Turk?
FACE. I'll tell the doctor so.
DAP. Do, good sweet captain.
FACE. Come, noble doctor, pray thee let's prevail; This is the gentleman, and he is no chiaus.
SUB. Captain, I have return'd you all my answer. I would do much, sir, for your love -- But this I neither may, nor can.
FACE. Tut, do not say so. You deal now with a noble fellow, doctor, One that will thank you richly; and he is no chiaus: Let that, sir, move you.
SUB. Pray you, forbear --
FACE. He has Four angels here.
SUB. You do me wrong, good sir.
FACE. Doctor, wherein? to tempt you with these spirits?
SUB. To tempt my art and love, sir, to my peril. Fore heaven, I scarce can think you are my friend, That so would draw me to apparent danger.
FACE. I draw you! a horse draw you, and a halter, You, and your flies together --
DAP. Nay, good captain.
FACE. That know no difference of men.
SUB. Good words, sir.
FACE. Good deeds, sir, doctor dogs-meat. 'Slight, I bring you No cheating Clim o' the Cloughs or Claribels, That look as big as five-and-fifty, and flush; And spit out secrets like hot custard --
FACE. Nor any melancholic under-scribe, Shall tell the vicar; but a special gentle, That is the heir to forty marks a year, Consorts with the small poets of the time, Is the sole hope of his old grandmother; That knows the law, and writes you six fair hands, Is a fine clerk, and has his cyphering perfect. Will take his oath o' the Greek Testament, If need be, in his pocket; and can court His mistress out of Ovid.
DAP. Nay, dear captain --
FACE. Did you not tell me so?
DAP. Yes; but I'd have you Use master doctor with some more respect.
FACE. Hang him, proud stag, with his broad velvet head! -- But for your sake, I'd choak, ere I would change An article of breath with such a puckfist: Come, let's be gone.
SUB. Pray you let me speak with you.
DAP. His worship calls you, captain.
FACE. I am sorry I e'er embark'd myself in such a business.
DAP. Nay, good sir; he did call you.
FACE. Will he take then?
SUB. First, hear me --
FACE. Not a syllable, 'less you take.
SUB. Pray you, sir --
FACE. Upon no terms but an assumpsit.
SUB. Your humour must be law. [HE TAKES THE FOUR ANGELS.]
FACE. Why now, sir, talk. Now I dare hear you with mine honour. Speak. So may this gentleman too.
SUB. Why, sir -- [OFFERING TO WHISPER FACE.]
FACE. No whispering.
SUB. Fore heaven, you do not apprehend the loss You do yourself in this.
FACE. Wherein? for what?
SUB. Marry, to be so importunate for one, That, when he has it, will undo you all: He'll win up all the money in the town.
SUB. Yes, and blow up gamester after gamester, As they do crackers in a puppet-play. If I do give him a familiar, Give you him all you play for; never set him: For he will have it.
FACE. You are mistaken, doctor. Why he does ask one but for cups and horses, A rifling fly; none of your great familiars.
DAP. Yes, captain, I would have it for all games.
SUB. I told you so.
FACE [TAKING DAP. ASIDE]. 'Slight, that is a new business! I understood you, a tame bird, to fly Twice in a term, or so, on Friday nights, When you had left the office, for a nag Of forty or fifty shillings.
DAP. Ay, 'tis true, sir; But I do think now I shall leave the law, And therefore --
FACE. Why, this changes quite the case. Do you think that I dare move him?
DAP. If you please, sir; All's one to him, I see.
FACE. What! for that money? I cannot with my conscience; nor should you Make the request, methinks.
DAP. No, sir, I mean To add consideration.
FACE. Why then, sir, I'll try. -- [GOES TO SUBTLE.] Say that it were for all games, doctor.
SUB. I say then, not a mouth shall eat for him At any ordinary, but on the score, That is a gaming mouth, conceive me.
SUB. He'll draw you all the treasure of the realm, If it be set him.
FACE. Speak you this from art?
SUB. Ay, sir, and reason too, the ground of art. He is of the only best complexion, The queen of Fairy loves.
FACE. What! is he?
SUB. Peace. He'll overhear you. Sir, should she but see him --
SUB. Do not you tell him.
FACE. Will he win at cards too?
SUB. The spirits of dead Holland, living Isaac, You'd swear, were in him; such a vigorous luck As cannot be resisted. 'Slight, he'll put Six of your gallants to a cloke, indeed.
FACE. A strange success, that some man shall be born to.
SUB. He hears you, man --
DAP. Sir, I'll not be ingrateful.
FACE. Faith, I have confidence in his good nature: You hear, he says he will not be ingrateful.
SUB. Why, as you please; my venture follows yours.
FACE. Troth, do it, doctor; think him trusty, and make him. He may make us both happy in an hour; Win some five thousand pound, and send us two on't.
DAP. Believe it, and I will, sir.
FACE. And you shall, sir. [TAKES HIM ASIDE.] You have heard all?
DAP. No, what was't? Nothing, I, sir.
DAP. A little, sir.
FACE. Well, a rare star Reign'd at your birth.
DAP. At mine, sir! No.
FACE. The doctor Swears that you are --
SUB. Nay, captain, you'll tell all now.
FACE. Allied to the queen of Fairy.
DAP. Who! that I am? Believe it, no such matter --
FACE. Yes, and that You were born with a cawl on your head.
DAP. Who says so?
FACE. Come, You know it well enough, though you dissemble it.
DAP. I'fac, I do not; you are mistaken.
FACE. How! Swear by your fac, and in a thing so known Unto the doctor? How shall we, sir, trust you In the other matter? can we ever think, When you have won five or six thousand pound, You'll send us shares in't, by this rate?
DAP. By Jove, sir, I'll win ten thousand pound, and send you half. I'fac's no oath.
SUB. No, no, he did but jest.
FACE. Go to. Go thank the doctor: he's your friend, To take it so.
DAP. I thank his worship.
FACE. So! Another angel.
DAP. Must I?
FACE. Must you! 'slight, What else is thanks? will you be trivial? -- Doctor, [DAPPER GIVES HIM THE MONEY.] When must he come for his familiar?
DAP. Shall I not have it with me?
SUB. O, good sir! There must a world of ceremonies pass; You must be bath'd and fumigated first: Besides the queen of Fairy does not rise Till it be noon.
FACE. Not, if she danced, to-night.
SUB. And she must bless it.
FACE. Did you never see Her royal grace yet?
FACE. Your aunt of Fairy?
SUB. Not since she kist him in the cradle, captain; I can resolve you that.
FACE. Well, see her grace, Whate'er it cost you, for a thing that I know. It will be somewhat hard to compass; but However, see her. You are made, believe it, If you can see her. Her grace is a lone woman, And very rich; and if she take a fancy, She will do strange things. See her, at any hand. 'Slid, she may hap to leave you all she has: It is the doctor's fear.
DAP. How will't be done, then?
FACE. Let me alone, take you no thought. Do you But say to me, captain, I'll see her grace.
DAP. "Captain, I'll see her grace."
SUB. Who's there? Anon. [ASIDE TO FACE.] -- Conduct him forth by the back way. -- Sir, against one o'clock prepare yourself; Till when you must be fasting; only take Three drops of vinegar in at your nose, Two at your mouth, and one at either ear; Then bathe your fingers' ends and wash your eyes, To sharpen your five senses, and cry "hum" Thrice, and then "buz" as often; and then come.
FACE. Can you remember this?
DAP. I warrant you.
FACE. Well then, away. It is but your bestowing Some twenty nobles 'mong her grace's servants, And put on a clean shirt: you do not know What grace her grace may do you in clean linen.
[EXEUNT FACE AND DAPPER.]
SUB [WITHIN]. Come in! Good wives, I pray you forbear me now; Troth I can do you no good till afternoon -- [RE-ENTERS, FOLLOWED BY DRUGGER.] What is your name, say you? Abel Drugger?
DRUG. Yes, sir.
SUB. A seller of tobacco?
DRUG. Yes, sir.
SUB. Umph! Free of the grocers?
DRUG. Ay, an't please you.
SUB. Well -- Your business, Abel?
DRUG. This, an't please your worship; I am a young beginner, and am building Of a new shop, an't like your worship, just At corner of a street: -- Here is the plot on't -- And I would know by art, sir, of your worship, Which way I should make my door, by necromancy, And where my shelves; and which should be for boxes, And which for pots. I would be glad to thrive, sir: And I was wish'd to your worship by a gentleman, One captain Face, that says you know men's planets, And their good angels, and their bad.
SUB. I do, If I do see them --
FACE. What! my honest Abel? Though art well met here.
DRUG. Troth, sir, I was speaking, Just as your worship came here, of your worship: I pray you speak for me to master doctor.
FACE. He shall do any thing. -- Doctor, do you hear? This is my friend, Abel, an honest fellow; He lets me have good tobacco, and he does not Sophisticate it with sack-lees or oil, Nor washes it in muscadel and grains, Nor buries it in gravel, under ground, Wrapp'd up in greasy leather, or piss'd clouts: But keeps it in fine lily pots, that, open'd, Smell like conserve of roses, or French beans. He has his maple block, his silver tongs, Winchester pipes, and fire of Juniper: A neat, spruce, honest fellow, and no goldsmith.
SUB. He is a fortunate fellow, that I am sure on.
FACE. Already, sir, have you found it? Lo thee, Abel!
SUB. And in right way toward riches --
SUB. This summer He will be of the clothing of his company, And next spring call'd to the scarlet; spend what he can.
FACE. What, and so little beard?
SUB. Sir, you must think, He may have a receipt to make hair come: But he'll be wise, preserve his youth, and fine for't; His fortune looks for him another way.
FACE. 'Slid, doctor, how canst thou know this so soon? I am amused at that!
SUB. By a rule, captain, In metoposcopy, which I do work by; A certain star in the forehead, which you see not. Your chestnut or your olive-colour'd face Does never fail: and your long ear doth promise. I knew't by certain spots, too, in his teeth, And on the nail of his mercurial finger.
FACE. Which finger's that?
SUB. His little finger. Look. You were born upon a Wednesday?
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