Barton, Anne. Ben Jonson: Dramatist. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1984. In addition to its introduction to The Alchemist, offers an essential discussion of the meaning and use of names and naming in Jonson’s plays—an almost obsessive interest of Jonson’s throughout his work—in the context of Western discussions of language from Plato to historian William Camden, Jonson’s contemporary and teacher.
Donaldon, Ian. “Language, Noise, and Nonsense: The Alchemist.” In Seventeenth Century Imagery, edited by Earl Miner. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. Focused discussion of the thematic significance of the play’s concern with language, including meaningless language. Places the play in the context of seventeenth century ideas about language.
Knights, L. C. Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson. London: Chatto & Windus, 1937. Starting point for discussions of Jonson’s plays as social sets. The first attempt to discuss Jonson’s dramatic works in the context of early seventeenth century London society, politics, and economics.
Partridge, Edward B. The Broken Compass. London: Chatto & Windus, 1958. The first extended study of Jonson’s imagery. Excellent introduction for readers unfamiliar with Jonson’s sometimes difficult language.
Wayne, Don E. “Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson: An Alternative View.” Renaissance Drama, n.s. 13 (1982): 103-129. Criticizes Knights’s thesis. Offers a more sophisticated, historical view of how the plays operated in and gave expression to Jonson’s society.