English & Literature

Would you consider The Alchemist by Ben Jonson an allegory?

Asked by
Last updated by anonymous
2 Answers
Log in to answer
To start with, the definition of an allegory is that it is a type of writing that has a double meaning. On one level, it is a romance or adventure etc while on another level, it is a description of a moral, spiritual or political reality common to all people either actually or potentially. While it is not specifically stated in the definition of allegory that the characters have titles as names , it is a common characteristic of allegory that they often do substitute names
Having said this, the genre that Ben Jonson's The Alchemist is analyzed under is that of farce. Critics consider that his characters, which are similar to the types in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, are farcical rather than allegorical. Jonson is using farce, with a whole catalog of "typical" characters, to mock the social element of swindlers and victims, a prevalent aspect of Jacobean society.
The Alchemist is actually the name given to his character Subtle who is a cheat.Jonson has presented the society of then times through his characters.His characters,events and speeches in the play are allegorical.For example, when Subtle tells the Drugger all about the direction of the shop,where to keep the jars and what should be the position of doors and windows. This shows that how foolish and guuliable Drugger is and believes in the pretentions of Subtle. Another example is when Epicure Mammon tells the wonders of philosphers stone to Surly is allegorical.His sppech reflects that people were psedo in their thoughts who believed in pseudo science of Alchemy. The title of the play is also allegorical.In the play there is no alchemy of chemicals as it seems to be but there is only alchemy of words to bluff the public who is gulliable. Jonson has also attacked the puritanism in his play by the character of Anabaptist (Annainas and Tribulation). According to him it is their process of alchemy that has brought revolution in religious faith.