Ben Jonson's The Alchemist Characters

Character Analysis

Jeremy Butler

Jeremy is Master Lovewit's butler. He is known to his friends as Face, while Lungs is the persona Jeremy assumes as the alchemist's assistant. Knowing that while the plague continues to claim victims Lovewit will remain absent, Jeremy decides to offer the home and his services to an acquaintance, Subtle and his partner Dol, so that they can prepare an elaborate swindle. He is smart and inventive. In his disguise as Face, he is able to recruit new victims to the house and the swindle.

When Lovewit returns unexpectedly, Jeremy offers marriage to the rich Widow Pliant as a means of escaping punishment. Lungs is an appropriate name for one who assists an alchemist with the dark and shadowy process of turning base metals into gold. His name conjures up the smoky furnace of the alchemist's laboratory. Since alchemy is also associated with Satan, Lungs also suggest the fires and smoke of hell. Face is symbolic of the many faces, names, and characters that Jeremy can assume depending on his need and audience.

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Abel Drugger

Drugger is a tobacconist who is also a victim of the swindlers. Drugger is seeking a magic that will tell him where to place the doors of his new shop and where to store certain goods so that he can make more money and be successful in his enterprise. The swindlers tell Drugger that it will be his fortune to enjoy great success and that he will achieve a position beyond his youthful years. Drugger returns to the swindlers a second time with a story about a rich young widow who would like her fortune told. He hopes that Subtle will assist with a match between the tobacconist and the widow.

The smoking of tobacco in London began with the importation of the product from the New World. Since Drugger was used to refer to someone who dealt in drugs or who functioned as a druggist, Jonson's use of the name may suggest that he viewed tobacco as a drug.

(The entire section is 160 words.)

Epicure Mammon

Mammon is a disreputable knight who is guilty of avarice and lechery. He is a great believer in alchemy. He anticipates being able to transform all the base metals in his house into gold and precious metals. He has grandiose plans to be wealthy and to acquire all the lead, tin, and copper available, which he will then turn into gold. He also thinks he can turn old men young, cure all disease, and eliminate the plague. Mammon even pays more money for the extra promises the stone offers. He expects to have many wives and mistresses, silk clothing, and wonderful perfumes.
After Mammon catches a glimpse of Dol, he is enamored and wants to marry her.

As is true for so many of the swindler's victims, Mammon is foolish and greedy and an unsympathetic victim of his own avarice. The explosion of the alchemist's furnace wipes out Mammon's investment in the scheme. Mammon's origination is a Greek word for riches. In Medieval English, Mammon is thought to be the name of the devil who covets riches. Its use in Jonson's play describes the nature of the character.

(The entire section is 188 words.)

Other Characters

The Alchemist
See Subtle

Ananias is one of the holy Brethren of Amsterdam. He is a Puritan who seeks out the swindlers so that he might secure possession of the philosopher's stone. He hopes to increase his influence through possessing the stone. But when Ananias tells the alchemist that the Brethren will not invest any more money in the stone, Subtle drives the Puritan from the house. Later he returns with another elder, Tribulation Wholesome, and the promise to pay more money. He is zealous and quarrelsome, an idealist who rejects Christmas as too Catholic but who decides that counterfeiting is not really a crime if it benefits his congregation. In the Bible, Ananias is a man who was struck dead for lying.

Dapper is a law clerk who gambles and who hopes to learn how to win at games of chance. Jeremy met Dapper at the Dagger and the young law clerk comes to the house seeking assistance and a means to win at racing and gambling. Dapper pays Subtle and is told that a rare star was aligned at his birth, a good fairy, who will help him win. When Dapper returns prepared to meet his fairy, he is stripped, his mouth is stuffed with gingerbread, and he is locked in an outhouse as a more important customer arrives at the house.

The word dapper was identified with young men who present themselves as neat, trim, and smart in appearance, but was also often associated with littleness or pettiness.

See Ananias

See Ananias

See Jeremy Butler

Kastril, brother to Dame Pliant, has recently inherited money, and he wants to learn to be quarrelsome so that he might be a gentleman and a gallant. He is referred to as the angry boy. He is given a lesson in quarreling by Subtle. At the play's conclusion, Kastril is very impressed with Lovewit's ability to quarrel and so consents to his sister's marriage to Lovewit. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word, Kastril, is thought to be a derivative of...

(The entire section is 857 words.)