The Alchemist
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554813674 / 1554813670
  • 204 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Alchemist

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554813674 / 1554813670
  • 204 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Alchemist has long been admired as one of Ben Jonson’s best dramas; its satiric cleverness and metatheatricality have delighted audiences from its first performance to the present day. Audiences are swept up in the schemes of a fake alchemist and other determined fraudsters whose scams appear to offer easy wealth and immortality. While no characters emerge unscathed by Jonson’s satire, and while alchemy itself is revealed as most likely a sham, the play is nonetheless a tribute to the transformative—indeed, the alchemical—powers of the theater. This edition features a helpful introduction to the play, thorough annotations, and contextual materials including a selection of Jonson’s sources, further materials on alchemy, and an example of “rogue” or “coney-catching” literature.


“Introducing students to this witty, farcical play will be so much easier with the new Broadview edition. The joy of this play is its topical satire, and to access it students need a thorough grounding in alchemy and in the contemporary culture of early modern London, both of which this edition provides.” — Margaret J. Oakes, Furman University

“The new Broadview edition of The Alchemist, edited by John Greenwood, is a delight. The play’s annotations are clear and complete. The edition includes extensive contextual materials, including coney-catching pamphlets, an alchemist’s guide, and some of Jonson’s own commonplace book’s entries. I am looking forward to teaching the play with this exciting new text.” — Rebecca Ann Bach, University of Alabama at Birmingham

“John Greenwood’s edition of Ben Jonson’s riotous early modern comedy, The Alchemist, captures the play’s essentials for student and more advanced scholar alike with its concise and informative introduction, helpful notes, and judiciously chosen appendix material. The edition will be a delight to use in the classroom.” — Mathew Martin, Brock University

“Kelly Stage’s edition of Dekker and Middleton’s The Roaring Girl and John Greenwood’s of Jonson’s The Alchemist, both from the Broadview Press, are convenient, handsome volumes … Each of the editors contributes a framing introduction to their play, and these also strike a Goldilocks standard, with a short biography of the playwrights and enough other background information to get a reader underway. Their common tone is informative, brisk, and accessible.” — William N. West, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900


The Alchemist

In Context

  • On Alchemy
    • from Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale,” from The Canterbury Tales (1387–1400)
    • Desiderius Erasmus, “The Alchemist” (1524)
    • from Martin Ruland, A Lexicon of Alchemy (1612)
  • On Criminals and “Coney-Catching”
    • from Robert Greene, A Disputation Between a He Cony-Catcher and a She Cony-Catcher, Whether a Thief or a Whore Is Most Hurtful in Cozenage to the Commonwealth. Discovering the secret villainies of alluring strumpets, With the conversion of an English courtesan, reformed this present year, 1592. Read, laugh and learn. Nascimur pro patria. R.G. (1592)
    • Image: from Thomas Harman, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursetors vulgarely called Vagabonds (1566; revised 1567/68)
  • On Playwriting
    • from Aristotle’s Poetics
    • from Timber, or Discoveries made upon men and matter as they have flowed out of his daily Readings, or had their reflux to his peculiar Notion of the Times (1641)

John Greenwood is an instructor at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo.