Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
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Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act I
 
Scene I
 
 
[Enter]  FACE  [in a captain’s uniform, with his sword drawn, and]  SUBTLE  [with a vial, quarrelling, and followed by]  DOL COMMON 1

  FACE.  BELIEVE ’t, I will.
  SUB.        Thy worst.
  DOL.  Have you your wits? why, gentlemen! for love——
  FACE.  Sirrah, I’ll strip you——        4
  SUB.        What to do?
  FACE.  Rogue, rogue!—out of all your sleights. 2
  DOL.  Nay, look ye, sovereign, general, are you madmen?
  SUB.  O, let the wild sheep loose. I’ll gum your silks        8
With good strong water, an you come.
  DOL.        Will you have
The neighbours hear you? Will you betray all?
Hark! I hear somebody.        12
  FACE.        Sirrah——
  SUB.        I shall mar
All that the tailor has made if you approach.
  FACE.  You most notorious whelp, you insolent slave,        16
Dare you do this?
  SUB.        Yes, faith; yes, faith.
  FACE.        Why, who
Am I, my mongrel, who am I?        20
  SUB.        I’ll tell you.,
Since you know not yourself.
  FACE.        Speak lower, rogue.
  SUB.  Yes, you were once (time’s not long past) the good,        24
Honest, plain, livery-three-pound-thrum, 3 that kept
Your master’s worship’s house here in the Friars, 4
For the vacations——
  FACE.        Will you be so loud?        28
  SUB.  Since, by my means, translated suburb-captain.
  FACE.  By your means, doctor dog!
  SUB.        Within man’s memory,
All this I speak of.        32
  FACE.        Why, I pray you, have I
Been countenanc’d by you, or you by me?
Do but collect, sir, where I met you first.
  SUB.  I do not hear well.        36
  FACE.        Not of this, I think it.
But I shall put you in mind, sir;—at Pie-corner,
Taking your meal of steam in, from cooks’ stalls,
Where, like the father of hunger, you did walk        40
Piteously costive, with your pinch’d-horn-nose,
And your complexion of the Roman wash, 5
Stuck full of black and melancholic worms,
Like powder-corns 6 shot at the artillery-yard.        44
  SUB.  I wish you could advance your voice a little.
  FACE.  When you went pinn’d up in the several rags;
You had rak’d and pick’d from dunghills, before day;
Your feet in mouldy slippers, for your kibes; 7        48
A felt of rug, 8 and a thin threaden cloak,
That scarce would cover your no-buttocks——
  SUB.        So, sir!
  FACE.  When all your alchemy, and your algebra,        52
Your minerals, vegetals, and animals,
Your conjuring, coz’ning; and your dozen of trades,
Could not relieve your corpse with so much linen
Would make you tinder, but to see a fire;        56
I ga’ you count’nance, credit for your coals,
Your stills, your glasses, your materials;
Built you a furnace, drew you customers,
Advanc’d all your black arts; lent you, beside,        60
A house to practise in——
  SUB.        Your master’s house!
  FACE.  Where you have studied the more thriving skill
Of bawdry since.        64
  SUB.        Yes, in your master’s house.
You and the rats here kept possession.
Make it not strange. 9 I know you were one could keep
The buttery-hatch still lock’d, and save the chippings,        68
Sell the dole beer to aqua-vitae men, 10
The which, together with your Christmas vails 11
At post-and-pair, 12 your letting out of counters, 13
Made you a pretty stock, some twenty marks,        72
And gave you credit to converse with cobwebs,
Here, since your mistress’ death hath broke up house.
  FACE.  You might talk softlier, rascal.
  SUB.        No, you scarab,        76
I’ll thunder you in pieces: I will teach you
How to beware to tempt a Fury again
That carries tempest in his hand and voice.
  FACE.  The place has made you valiant.        80
  SUB.        No, your clothes.
Thou vermin, have I ta’en thee out of dung,
So poor, so wretched, when no living thing
Would keep thee company, but a spider or worse?        84
Rais’d thee from brooms, and dust, and wat’ring-pots,
Sublim’d thee, and exalted thee, and fix’d thee
In the third region, 14 call’d our state of grace?
Wrought thee to spirit, to quintessence, with pains        88
Would twice have won me the philosopher’s work?
Put thee in words and fashion, made thee fit
For more than ordinary fellowships?
Giv’n thee thy oaths, thy quarelling dimensions,        92
Thy rules to cheat, at horse-race, cock-pit, cards,
Dice, or whatever gallant tincture 15 else?
Made thee a second in mine own great art?
And have I this for thanks! Do you rebel?        96
Do you fly out i’ the projection? 16
Would you be gone now?
  DOL.        Gentlemen, what mean you?
Will you mar all?        100
  SUB.  Slave, thou hadst had no name——
  DOL.  Will you undo yourselves with civil war?
  SUB.  Never been known, past equi clibanum,
The heat of horse-dung, under ground, in cellars,        104
Or an ale-house darker than deaf John’s; been lost
To all mankind, but laundresses and tapsters,
Had not I been.
  DOL.        Do you know who hears you, sovereign?        108
  FACE.  Sirrah——
  DOL.  Nay, general, I thought you were civil.
  FACE.  I shall turn desperate, if you grow thus loud.
  SUB.  And hang thyself, I care not.        112
  FACE.        Hang thee, collier,
And all thy pots and pans, in picture, I will,
Since thou hast mov’d me——
  DOL.  [Aside]        O, this’ll o’erthrow all.        116
  FACE.  Write thee up bawd in Paul’s, have all thy tricks
Of coz’ning with a hollow coal, dust, scrapings,
Searching for things lost, with a sieve and shears,
Erecting figures in your rows of houses, 17        120
And taking in of shadows with a glass,
Told in red letters; and a face cut for thee,
Worse than Gamaliel Ratsey’s. 18
  DOL.        Are you sound?        124
Ha’ you your senses, masters?
  FACE.        I will have
A book, but barely reckoning thy impostures,
Shall prove a true philosopher’s stone to printers.        128
  SUB.  Away, you trencher-rascal!
  FACE.        Out, you dog-leech!
The vomit of all prisons——
  DOL.        Will you be        132
Your own destructions, gentlemen?
  FACE.        Still spew’d out
For lying too heavy on the basket. 19
  SUB.        Cheater!        136
  FACE.  Bawd!
  SUB.        Cow-herd!
  FACE.        Conjurer!
  SUB.        Cutpurse!        140
  FACE.        Witch!
  DOL.        O me!
We are ruin’d, lost! Ha’ you no more regard
To your reputations? Where’s your judgment? ’Slight,        144
Have yet some care of me, o’ your republic——
  FACE.  Away, this brach! 20 I’ll bring thee, rogue, within
The statute of sorcery, tricesimo tertio
Of Harry the Eighth: 21 ay, and perhaps thy neck        148
Within a noose, for laund’ring gold and barbing it. 22
  DOL.  You’ll bring your head within a cockscomb, 23 will you?  She catcheth out FACE his sword, and breaks SUBTLE’S glass.
And you, sir, with your menstrue! 24—Gather it up.
’Sdeath, you abominable pair of stinkards,        152
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.        156
Ha’ you together cozen’d all this while,
And all the world, and shall it now be said,
You’ve made most courteous shift to cozen yourselves?
  [To FACE.]  You will accuse him! You will “bring him in        160
Within the statute!” Who shall take your word?
A whoreson, upstart, apocryphal captain,
Whom not a Puritan in Blackfriars will trust
So much as for a feather: and you, too,  [to SUBTLE.]        164
Will give the cause, forsooth! You will insult,
And claim a primacy in the divisions!
You must be chief! As if you only had
The powder to project 25 with, and the work        168
Were not begun out of equality!
The venture tripartite! All things in common!
Without priority! ’Sdeath! you perpetual curs,
Fall to your couples again, and cozen kindly,        172
And heartily, and lovingly, as you should,
And lose not the beginning of a term,
Or, by this hand, I shall grow factious too,
And take my part, and quit you.        176
  FACE.        ’Tis his fault;
He ever murmurs, and objects his pains,
And says, the weight of all lies upon him.
  SUB.  Why, so it does.        180
  DOL.        How does it? Do not we
Sustain our parts?
  SUB.        Yes, but they are not equal.
  DOL.  Why, if your part exceed today, I hope        184
Ours may to-morrow match it.
  SUB.        Ay, they may.
  DOL.  May, murmuring mastiff! Ay, and do. Death on me!
Help me to throttle him.  [Seizes SUB. by the throat.]        188
  SUB.        Dorothy! Mistress Dorothy!
’Ods precious, I’ll do anything. What do you mean?
  DOL.  Because o’ your fermentation and cibation? 26
  SUB.  Not I, by heaven——        192
  DOL.        Your Sol and Luna——help me.  [To FACE.]
  SUB.  Would I were hang’d then! I’ll conform myself.
  DOL.  Will you, sir? Do so then, and quickly: swear.
  SUB.  What should I swear?        196
  DOL.        To leave your faction, sir,
And labour kindly in the common work.
  SUB.  Let me not breathe if I meant aught beside.
I only us’d those speeches as a spur        200
To him.
  DOL.  I hope we need no spurs, sir. Do we?
  FACE.  ’Slid, prove today who shall shark best.
  SUB.        Agreed.        204
  DOL.  Yes, and work close and friendly.
  SUB.        ’Slight, the knot
Shall grow the stronger for this breach, with me.  [They shake hands.]
  DOL.  Why, so, my good baboons! Shall we go make        208
A sort of sober, scurvy, precise neighbours,
That scarce have smil’d twice sin’ the king came in, 27
A feast of laughter at our follies? Rascals,
Would run themselves from breath, to see me ride,        212
Or you t’have but a hole to thrust your heads in, 28
For which you should pay ear-rent? 29 No, agree.
And may Don Provost ride a feasting long,
In his old velvet jerkin and stain’d scarfs,        216
My noble sovereign, and worthy general,
Ere we contribute a new crewel 30 garter
To his most worsted 31 worship.
  SUB.        Royal Dol!        220
Spoken like Claridiana, 32 and thyself.
  FACE.  For which at supper, thou shalt sit in triumph,
And not be styl’d Dol Common, but Dol Proper,
Dol Singular: the longest cut at night,        224
Shall draw thee for his Dol Particular.  [Bell rings without.]
  SUB.  Who’s that? One rings. To the window, Dol:  [Exit DOL.]—pray  heav’n,
The master do not trouble us this quarter.
  FACE.  O, fear not him. While there dies one a week        228
O’ the plague, he’s safe from thinking toward London.
Beside, he’s busy at his hop-yards now;
I had a letter from him. If he do,
He’ll send such word, for airing o’ the house,        232
As you shall have sufficient time to quit it:
Though we break up a fortnight, ’tis no matter.
 
Re-enter DOL.

  SUB.  Who is it, Dol?
  DOL.        A fine young quodling. 33        236
  FACE.  O,
My lawyer’s clerk, I lighted on last night,
In Holborn, at the Dagger. He would have
(I told you of him) a familiar,        240
To rifle with at horses, and win cups.
  DOL.  O, let him in.
  SUB.        Stay. Who shall do’t?
  FACE.        Get you        244
Your robes on; I will meet him, as going out.
  DOL.  And what shall I do?
  FACE.        Not be seen; away!  [Exit DOL.]
Seem you very reserv’d.        248
  SUB.        Enough.  [Exit.]
  FACE.  [aloud and retiring.]  God be wi’ you, sir,
I pray you let him know that I was here:
His name is Dapper. I would gladly have staid, but——        252
 
Note 1. A room in Lovewit’s house. [back]
Note 2. Drop your tricks. [back]
Note 3. Poorly paid servant. [back]
Note 4. The precinct of Blackfriars. [back]
Note 5. I. e., sallow. [back]
Note 6. Grains of powder. [back]
Note 7. Chilblains. [back]
Note 8. A hat of coarse material. [back]
Note 9. Don’t pretend to forget. [back]
Note 10. Sell the beer intended for the poor to liquor-dealers. [back]
Note 11. Tips. [back]
Note 12. A game of cards. [back]
Note 13. I. e., to the card-players. [back]
Note 14. Technical jargon of alchemy. [back]
Note 15. Accomplishment. [back]
Note 16. At the moment when success is near. [back]
Note 17. Astrological tricks. [back]
Note 18. A notorious highwayman. [back]
Note 19. Eating more than his share of rations. [back]
Note 20. Bitch. [back]
Note 21. Henry VIII, the first act against witchcraft in England. [back]
Note 22. “Sweating” and clipping the coinage. [back]
Note 23. Halter. [back]
Note 24. A liquid which dissolves solids. [back]
Note 25. Transmute metals. [back]
Note 26. Alchemical terms. [back]
Note 27. Seven years before. [back]
Note 28. In the pillory. [back]
Note 29. Have your ears cut off. [back]
Note 30. Familiar puns. [back]
Note 31. Familiar puns. [back]
Note 32. The heroine of the “Mirror of Knighthood.” [back]
Note 33. Green apple, a youth. [back]
 

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