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Volpone and The Alchemist

Volpone and The Alchemist

By: Ben Jonson

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Much-studied and frequently performed, these comedies by the great Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson satirize the greed, mendacity, gullibility, and pretension of seventeenth-century London society. Both plays abound in colorful characters, ingenious plotting, biting wit, and sharp insight into human nature.
In Volpone (1605), a crafty rich man attempts to augment his wealth by feigning a mortal illness. His wealthy neighbors, spying the opportunity for an inheritance, vie with each other in courting the “dying” man’s favor. The Alchemist (1610) comprises a likewise avaricious cast, headed by a butler and prostitute who join forces with a swindler claiming to possess the philosopher's stone. The trio hosts a parade of eager victims whose hypocrisy and greed place them on a moral footing similar to that of the tricksters. Both plays offer sparkling examples of their author's novel approach to satire and his distinctive blend of savagery, humor, moralism, and a powerful sense of the absurd.

Reprint of the editions published by Everyman's Library, New York, Dutton, 1910.
AvailabilityUsually ships in 24 to 48 hours
ISBN 100486436306
ISBN 139780486436302
Author/EditorBen Jonson
Grade level9 and Up (ages 14 and up)
Page Count256
Dimensions5 x 8

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