Explore the use of female figures in The Alchemist by Jonson.

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This hilarious satire on the greed and avarice within humans contains two female figures: Doll, the whore who works with Subtle and Face to con the various individuals that come to them, and Dame Pliant, a rich widow who is seen as a very tempting target for the tricksters. These two characters belong respectively to the two groups that are presented to the audience in this dog-eat-dog world: the deceivers and the deceived. Doll for example, in Act I scene 1, is clearly portrayed as a woman who is intent on deceiving others for personal gain, and she is very dominant when Face and Subtle argue and threaten to ruin this scheme through revealing who they really are. Note what Doll says to bring them to reason:

'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.

Doll is therefore portrayed as a very dominant, active figure who is willing to connive with her fellow fraudsters in order to fleece the gullible for profit. Dame Pliant, however, as her name suggests, is a much more static, passive character, who exposes herself to the manipulations of the tricksters. Although there are only two female characters in this play, the divide between those who are deceived and those who deceive suggest that it is the fault of those who are deceived for being so gullible in the first place that allows tricksters like Doll to prey on their weaknesses.

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