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To keep me here will not advantage you.

Fern. Content thee, Calymath, here thou must stay, And live in Malta prisoner; for come all the world To rescue thee, so will we guard us now, As sooner shall they drink the ocean dry Than conquer Malta, or endanger us. So march away and let due praise be given Neither to Fate nor Fortune, but to Heaven. [Exeunt. 130 II.

THE ALCHEMIST.

BY BEN JONSON.

Produced in 1610; dedicated to Lady Mary Wroth, niece of Sir Philip Sidney.

THE ALCHEMIST.1

TO THE READER.

If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be cozened than in this age, in poetry, especially in plays: wherein now the concupiscence of dances and of antics so reigneth, as to run away from Nature, and be afraid of her, is the only point of Art that tickles the spectators. But how out of purpose and place do I name Art ? When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it, and presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of all diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms, when they understand not the things, think to get off wittily with their ignorance. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned and sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent vice of judgment. For they commend writers as they do fencers and wrestlers; who, if they come in robustuously, and put for it with a great deal of violence, are received for the braver fellows: when many times their own rudeness is the cause of their disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil. I deny not but that these men, who always seek to do more than enough, may sometime happen on something that is good and great; but very seldom: and when it comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It sticks out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid and vile about it; as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness than a faint shadow. I speak not this out of a hope to do good to any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to the question of theirs and mine, the worse would find more suffrages: because the most favour

But I give thee this warning, that there is a great difference between those that, to gain the opinion of copy,2 utter all they can, however unfitly; and those that use election and a mean. For it is only the disease of the unskilful to think rude things greater than polished, or scattered more numerous than composed.

1 In a few places in the text of this play I have adopted slight verbal alterations, suggested by Professor Henry Morley. 2 Reputation of being fertile writers.

115

common errors.

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

SUBTLE, the Alchemist.

PERTINAX SURLY, a Gamester. Face, the Housekeeper.

TRIBULATION WHOLESOME, a PasDOL COMMON, their Colleague.

tor of Amsterdam. DAPPER, a Clerk.

ANANIAS, a Deacon there. DRUGGER, a Tobacco Man.

KASTRIL, the angry Boy. LOVEWIT, Master of the House. DAME PLIANT, his Sister, a Widow. SIR EPICURE MAMMON, a Knight. | Neighbours, Officers, Mutes.

SCENE: London,

ARGUMENT.

The sickness hot, a master quit, for fear,
H is house in town, and left one servant there.
E ase him corrupted, and gave means to know
A cheater and his punk? ; who now brought low,
L eaving their narrow practice, were become
C ozeners at large ; and only wanting some
House to set up, with him they here contract,
E each for a share, and all begin to act.
M uch company they draw, and much abuse,
I n casting figures, telling fortunes, news,
Selling of flies, false putting of the stone,
Till it, and they, and all in fume are gone.

10

PROLOGUE.

FORTUNE, that favours fools, these two short hours

We wish away, both for your sakes and ours, Judging Spectators; and desire, in place,

1 Plague.
2 Coarse woman.

3 Astrological divination.
4 Familiar spirits.

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