Set during a plague epidemic in the Liberty of Blackfriars in 1610 - and first performed on tour in 1610 by the company whose London home at Blackfriars was temporarily closed due to a plague epidemic - The Alchemist is a sublimely accomplished satirical farce about people's diverse dreams of self-refinement: they all want to transform themselves into something nobler, richer, more powerful, more virile, just as base metal was supposed to be transformed into gold in the alchemical process. During their master's absence from the house, the con-artists Face, Subtle and Doll Common dupe a series of 'customers' whose desire for aggrandisement leads them to believe in the existence of the fabled Philosopher's Stone. As their equipment boils over and blows up in the offstage kitchen, so their plot heats up and is exploded by the sceptical Surly and the arrival of their master - who quietly pockets their proceeds and marries the rich widow to boot.
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Abel Alchemist alchemy ananias Apicius bawds bolt's-head brethren brother Canon's Yeoman's Tale captain cast cheaters coins costive cozen cozen'd dame pliant dapper do't doctor dol common door doth drugger elixir Enter face Enter subtle Exeunt Exit face faith fellow fetch fortune furnace gallants gentleman give glass Gleek gold gone grace gull gull'd hath hear heathen Greek honest humour Is't Jeremy Jonson kastrill knocking lady language look lord lovewit Lungs madam magisterium master master doctor means med'cine mercury metals metoposcopy neighbour never night noble on't pertinax surly philosopher's stone play pound pray profane Puritans quarrel rascal Re-enter face Re-enter subtle reference rogue ruff SCENE Senora shew silver sir epicure mammon sister Slight Spanish speak spirit Subtle's tell thee There's Thou art thou shalt tobacco told tribulation wholesome troth unto velvet Volpone What's widow worship