Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 312
Research the use of character names to represent traits or ideology. When did playwrights first begin this practice? Research contemporary characters in theater, film, and literature. How do their names reflect their character?
Religion was very important to English social structure during the seventeenth century. Roman Catholics were forbidden from receiving degrees from the universities and also banned from holding many political offices. Puritans were often the object of derision and many fled to the New World seeking religious freedom. Examine the role of religion during this period and try to resolve some of the references to religion that you find in Jonson's play.
At the end of the play, Subtle and Dol have fled without any reward for their knavery and only Jeremy seems to have profited from the three weeks his master has been gone. Jeremy is forgiven when he offers the widow in marriage. Nearly four hundred years after the play was written, changing social values would condemn such an arrangement and insist that Jeremy be punished rather than having the widow "sold" in exchange for his master's forgiveness. Considering those issues, do you think the play is still effective? Do you find that it condemns "get rich quick schemes" or that it offers an effective satire of the artificial nature of men's morals. Consider who you think really benefits from the play's resolution.
Critics sometimes argue that Jonson's play lacks a comedic plot and that it is really just a series of short episodes strung together, thus it is not really a comedy. Traditionally, comedies of this period were defined as such if they ended with a happy marriage. If you compare The Alchemist to other comedies of the period, what is it lacking? Because of the public's exposure to television sitcoms, do you think a modern audience might be more receptive to the structure of this play?
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