The Alchemist Essay

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In this essay, Cervo discusses the allusions to odors - particularly offensive ones - that characterize the emotional content of a scene in The Alchemist.

In the spat between Face and Subtle, the alchemist, that opens Jonson's play, Subtle is described as having been very much down on his luck before Face met him:

Fiteously costive, with your pinch'd-horn-nose, And your complexion of the Roman wash, Stuck full of black and melancholic worms, Like powder-corns shot at th' artillery-yard (11.28-31)

Glossing "Roman wash," Brooke and Paradise suggest "a wash of alum water," that is, an emetic. Face apparently returns to this odious metaphor when he calls Subtle "The vomit of all prisons-." However, the phrase "Piteously costive" introduces the motif of constipation to the passage that seems to point to a conflation of sewer and stomach contents, such as occurs in the Curculio of Jonson's chief comedic model...

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This section contains 448 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Alchemist Study Guide
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The Alchemist from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.