Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on June 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 573

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Subtle, the Alchemist, a moldy, disreputable cheat. Joining forces with Jeremy Butler and Dol Common, he uses his fund of scientific and pseudo-scientific jargon to fleece the gullible. He promises large returns from transmutation of metals, astrological prophecies, physical nostrums, or whatever seems most likely to entrap his victims. When the master of the house returns, he is forced to take flight without his gains.


Face (Jeremy Butler), Subtle’s contact man, who furnishes his master’s house as the Alchemist’s headquarters. He is a resourceful, quick-witted improviser. Disguised as a rough, blunt captain, he entices victims to the house. When his master, Lovewit, returns home unexpectedly, he arranges a marriage between Lovewit and the Widow Pliant, thereby escaping punishment.

Dol Common

Dol Common, the third of the tricksters, the common mistress of the other two. Her dominant personality keeps her quarrelsome cohorts in line. She can act various roles, such as an exotic lady or the Queen of the Fairies, to carry out Subtle’s various schemes. Along with Subtle, she is forced to flee with the jeers of Face following her.

Sir Epicure Mammon

Sir Epicure Mammon, a fantastic voluptuary. He is a veritable fountain of lust and imagined luxury, and he seeks the philosopher’s stone to help him to unbounded self-indulgence. When his investment is wiped out by the explosion of the Alchemist’s furnace, planned and well-timed by Subtle, Sir Epicure confesses that he has been justly punished for his voluptuous mind.

Abel Drugger

Abel Drugger, a small-time tobacconist ambitious for commercial success. Engaged to the Widow Pliant, he takes her and her brother Kastril to the Alchemist. He is tricked not only out of his money but also out of the widow.


Kastril, an angry boy, brother of the Widow Pliant. He has come to London to learn to smoke and quarrel. Face uses him to get rid of the skeptic, Surly. He is much taken with old Lovewit, who quarrels well, and consents to his sister’s marriage to him.

Pertinax Surly

Pertinax Surly, a sour skeptic who prides himself on being too astute to be tricked. First coming to the Alchemist’s as a friend of Sir Epicure, he returns disguised as a Spanish don, planning to save the Widow Pliant from Subtle and Face and to marry her. He is driven away by Kastril and loses the widow to Lovewit.

Tribulation Wholesome

Tribulation Wholesome, an oily Puritan hypocrite from Amsterdam. Being quite willing to compromise his conscience for profit, he has difficulty restraining his uncompromising companion, Deacon Ananias.


Ananias, a deacon, a hot-tempered zealot who considers even the word “Christmas” a papist abomination. Quarrelsome at first, he finally agrees that counterfeiting is lawful if it is for the benefit of the faithful. Along with Tribulation, he is driven away by Lovewit.

Dame Pliant

Dame Pliant, an easygoing, attractive young widow, affianced to Drugger but perfectly willing to accept another husband. Subtle and Face both hope to marry her, but the latter decides that it is safer to hand her over to Lovewit, his master.


Lovewit, the master of the house, who has left London because of the plague. His absence sets up the plot, and his return resolves it. He drives away Subtle, Dol, and their victims, but he forgives Jeremy Butler (Face) when Butler arranges a marriage between his master and the rich young widow, Dame Pliant.




Critical Essays