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I am confused about part 1 of The Alchemist by Ben Jonson. Can someone explain it to...

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mitchell2 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted September 2, 2009 at 2:40 PM via web

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I am confused about part 1 of The Alchemist by Ben Jonson. Can someone explain it to me please?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 2, 2009 at 10:39 PM (Answer #1)

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Act I of The Alchemist creates an interesting exposition to the story!  We find out almost right away the the setting is in the early 1600s in London, England.  The plague is running rampant.  Anyone with any money at all has fled the city to remain safe in the open air of the country.  Jeremy, Lowewit's butler and servant, has been left to care for the manor in town while Lovewit himself has fled to the country for safety.  The opening scene finds Jeremy and Subtle arguing.  Subtle is the man claiming to be an alchemist and who has a very appropriate name for his craftiness, cunning, and general knavery.  Jeremy and Subtle are arguing about money and yelling about who is the most important in regards to the con they are arranging.  Subtle switches gears quickly when Dapper comes in, wanting to find out how to win at gambling by consulting Subtle who, this time is "the astrologer."  Both Subtle and Jeremy cheat Dapper out of all his money and claim that he is inherently "lucky," so as not to worry because the "Queen of Fairy" will be by his side.  Wealth seems to be on paramount in this first act, for Jeremy and Subtle also cheat a second person (Drugger) in telling him that he will be successful and rich.

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