Subtle Character Analysis in The Alchemist

The first scene opens with the quarrel between Face and Subtle, Doll Common intervening to bring them to their senses. Subtle’s grouse is that he is bearing a greater burden than his two partners. Dol overrules it, and they all agree to carry out their pact. It is then that Dapper, a lawyer’s clerk, rings, and they have to put up a show. When Face meets Dapper he pretends to be very busy and going out, and then Subtle comes in Subtle makes a lot of fuss before agreeing to assist him with a spirit that will help him win in gambling. He (Subtle) pretends to be so much concerned about the illegality of the whole thing. Subtle next begins to read Dapper’s fortune, promising him tremendous success in his dubious undertaking. Then Face takes him aside and more than convinces him of the good fortune in store for him; and Dapper readily consents to share his gambling profits with them, and parts with some money as an earnest. Subtle further excites his cupidity by assuring him that his aunt of Fairy will leave him all she has and that to that end he must contact her, giving him directions how he can win her favour. Dapper should fast and put vinegar in his nose, mouth and ears. This is the ceremony to be performed before he can see the aunt of Fairy. They are disturbed by knocking, which seems to be all calculated. Face is ordered to conduct Dapper by the back way. The next visitor is Drugger, a tobacco-man. Subtle receives him. He solicits Subtle’s assistance because he is building a new shop, and he wants to know which way he should put the door and where the shelves should be located so that he may best attract customers. Face rejoins them and highly recommends Drugger. Subtle reads his fortune, and promises him plenty of money coming his way. Subtle talks all the time in his astrological jargon from which Drugger is led to draw the vague idea of his future. Finally, Subtle tells him to build his door south and his broad side west, and inscribe some mystical names on the east side of his shop. He is to do Certain other things to draw costumes, and of these Subtle gives him specific directions. Drugger also laves some money with Face, and promises more in the future. More visitors are coming on. Subtle a ready to receive none but Epicure Mammon for he has already promised to do big things for Mammon, and the latter is full of hopes and excitement, and Subtle can fleece him to his pleasure.

The second Act introduces Sir Epicure Mammon, a knight, and his friend, Surly, a gamester. Mammon is carried away by his vision of a dazzling future in which he rolls in wealth and luxury. he talks in an exaggerated strain. Surly maintains a skeptical attitude, and now and then scoffs at his friend, but he is highly wrought and pays little need to his friend’s warning. Mammon goes on talking of all the marvels that are to be accomplished by Subtle’s art- and he cannot think of anything else, So he is going to be duped like other fellows, and Surly’s warning is wasted upon him. Then Face meets him, and assures him of the success of the chemical processes that are being carried on for his sake. And he is elated with the hope of having the philosopher’s stone soon in his possession- and he is only concerned about where he can get so much stuff to be converted into gold. Face tells him how he and his master (Subtle) have been working hard to ensure success, of which signs are now visible Mammon begins to dream of a life of unbounded wealth and luxury, and will listen to no scoffing on the part of Surly. At last, enters Subtle. He holds himself a little aloof, and in a solemn tone lectures him and warns him against the misuse of his good fortune that the philosopher’s stone will bring, not forgetting to tell him that he has laboured hard in his cause. He intends that his good fortune should be used for public good-for pious uses and dear charity, otherwise a curse will fall upon him. Mammon promises to behave. Face now and then enters to report how the alchemic tests are going on in Mammon’s favour. it is all a trick to impress Mammon; Subtle, however, fails to win over Surly-he remains skeptical and goes on with his ironical comments. of which Subtle takes no notice. Subtle talks in his half-intelligible Jargon- and it convinces Mammon promises to behave. Face now and then enters to report how the alchemic tests are going on in Mammon’s favour, It is all a trick to impress Mammon; Subtle, however, fails to win over Surly-he remains skeptical and goes on with his ironical comments, of which Subtle takes no notice. Subtle talks in his half-intelligible Jargon- and it convinces Mammon more than ever, but has little effect upon Surly. Dol peeps in once, and Subtle scolds her away, and summons Face from within, and takes him to task for letting that women in. Subtle leaves them for a moment. It is now for Face to tell. Mammon that the lady is a lord’s sister, sent here to be cured of her madness. Surly comments that this is a bawd’s house, but Mammon praises Subtle as a rare physician. Face describes in detail the madness that has seized the lady, and this he does to impress Mammon more with the skill of his master. Face goes in again, and Surly again warns Mammon seriously, and Mammon protests that he should not speak ill of a great person like Subtle. he pretends to know the lady and all that troubles her, but when questioned by Surly as to the details he can give no satisfactory answer. Face (he is not known to them by the name of Face) enters again and announces Captain Face’s desire to Surly that the latter should meet him on some earned business in the Temple-church. He whispers to Mammon that if he will return two hours hence, he will have a chance of hearing the lady converse with his master for, as he has been told, the lady is full of recondite learning. Surly gives his word to meet Captain Face by attorney, and he says that he is now more than sure that it is a bawdyhouse, and that he is soon going to blow up the whole show. Doll re-enter. Doll is also going to play her role in tricking Mammon. Surly leaves; Mammon gives Face money and leaves to, ‘Subtle and There is knocking outside. Then Ananias, a deacon, enters. Subtle goes on talking to Face about the alchemic tests that are being carried on before taking any notice of Ananias. Subtle overwhelms the poor fellow with his display of occult learning, and Ananias confesses his ignorance of all this heathen stuff. Face also joins Subtle in confounding Ananias, and begins to expound the virtue of the philosopher’s stone. Ananias, in answering Subtle’s further questions, tells him that he comes from his master, Tribulation Wholesome; they deal with widows and orphans’ goods, and Subtle tells him in return that he is using the orphans’ goods (pewter, brass, and iron and kitchen-ware, metals) to make some medicine which the brethren may buy for their benefit. The brethren are interested in the philosopher’s stone and they have been paying for the coal that Subtle needs for carrying on his experiments. Subtle dismisses Ananias rudely demanding that his master should be sent to him if their project of rooting cut bishops or the anti-Christian hierarchy is to be fulfilled. Face re-enters in his uniform, followed by Drugger. Drugger brings a piece of gold and desires a thriving-sign, which Subtle promises in his astrological calculation and terms, of which Drugger of course can make nothing. He tells Face of a rich young widow in whom he is interested, and of her brother who wants to learn to quarrel, and is glad to hear that Subtle can help him in the matter. Drugger departs promising to bring damask and more tobacco (which he makes a present of) to Subtle and also the brother and sister. So they are going to have another woman in the house and Face counts on having a wife in the future.

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In the third Act, Tribulation calls on Subtle in the company of Ananiaz. Tribulation is building his hope on the philosopher’s stone to establish Puritanism in England, for which purpose he needs to hire soldiers and bribe magistrates. Subtle meets Tribulation when he pretends to be in an angry temper because the supply of coal for chemical process has been cut short by the brethren. Tribulation apologizes for Ananias, and assures Subtle that the brethren will render all necessary help for the purpose he has in view. Subtle is wail- acquainted with his purpose: it is to hire forces abroad, and the Holland fleet so that their supremacy may be established in England: and Subtle is going to offer him the aid of the philosopher’s stone. The orphans’ goods are all going to be turned over to subtle- and they will be converted into gold. Tribulation is quite satisfied and silences Ananias who demurs now and then it is a glorious future that Subtle paints for Tribulation-and he becomes an easy dupe. The marvels that the philosophers’ stone will accomplish fascinate him.

He makes excuses for Ananias who doubts whether the holy purpose should be accomplished by unholy means. Subtle sends them off to make an inventory of the orphans’ goods deposited with him and promises that in the third week from now they will have all the gold they need form the melting of pewter, (part of the orphans’ goods). Face in his uniform enters. Surly has not kept his appointment. It is rather unlucky. But he brings some good news; a Spanish Count is coming and bringing fits. And they can play off Doll against him. Subtle goes off for a while and then Dol enters, and Face tells her of the role she is to play with the Spanish Count. Subtle returns after finally dismissing Tribulation and Ananias who have been making an inventory of orphans’ goods and casting up the amount. Dapper calls again, but they want to get rid of Dapper, as they are expecting the Spanish Count. Subtle withdraws. Face assures Dapper that he will win in gambling, and have the favour of his Fairy aunt to which end Subtle has been working. There is Drugger again, and he brings Kastril whom he introduces as the gentleman interested in the etiquette of quarrelling. He tells Face that his sister, the widow, will be coming soon. Kastril is all impatience for learning the art of quarrelling, and Face tells him that his master is the man to instruct him in that art. he is also tempted to hear, that he can make a lot of money in gambling when Face points to Dapper as one who is going to make his fortune by gambling; and as he listens to Face talking of the wonderful powers of his master, such as can help one to make money by speculation, or to dispose of rich widows, Kastril is more and more interested and promises to bring his sister. Then Face talks to Drugger and Kastril learns incidentally that Face’s master can make wonderful coures. He wants to send Drugger for his sister at once but Face detains Drugger. Then Kastril goes. Face now promises the rich widow to Drugger and sends away Drugger. Face next turns to Dapper and asks him whether he has performed all the ceremony preparatory to meeting his Fairy aunt. It is the ceremony with the vinegar, and he has done it. He has also brought money to be distributed among his aunt’s servant’s – and the money is deposited with Face. Subtle now enters, disguised like a priest of Fairy, with a strip of cloth. He speaks in a disguised voice too, and offers Dapper the strip of cloth as a gift from the Fairy queen; it is to be worn as a scarf about his eyes, and he must part with everything he owns to please her. At Face’s bidding Dapper puts away all that he has with him, and all the money too that he has been carrying.

Doll enters hastily and announces that Mammon is come again. Face speaks through the keyhole, requesting Mammon to walk a while because his master is busy at that moment. Face leads away Dapper and Dapper is to wait until he can see the Fairy aunt, and in the meantime he is not to speak and for that purpose he has a piece of gingerbread stuck in his mouth.

In the forth Act mammon and Face meet. Face talks of the lady (Doll) who is to be thrown as a bait to Mammon. He warns Mammon against the fitfulness of her temper-she may break out if there is any point of dispute. Mammon is ready to humour the lady without entering into any dispute. Then Face brings in Doll, who has already been tutored to play her role. Mammon offers to kiss her garment, but Doll offers her lips. Mammon gets on all right, never contradicting Dol. He praises her beauty in rapturous terms, and pleads that it is a beauty not to be wasted in a cloister, and offers her his land and gold-gold that he is going to amass by the philosopher’s stone. Doll warns him that it might not be after all a safe thing to do, converting all his stuff into gold and living in ostentatious luxury, which might finally lodge him in prison. Face enters again and suggests that as they are talking rather loudly, the garden would be the right place for them. Mammon gives Face money, and then they withdraw. Subtle now enters, and prepares to receive Kastril who enters, followed by Dame Pliant. Subtle atone launches into a discourse on dueling, and in the meantime salutes his sister by kissing her twice, and then leads her hand. Face re-enters. He also kisses Dame Pliant. She is pleased that both Subtle and Face address her as a lady. Kastril takes her side. Now face tells Subtle that the Spanish Count is arrived. Face is attracted by Dame Pliant and tells Subtle that he must have her, and Subtle replies that if fortune favours him, he will have her. Subtle then leads away Kastril and his sister to his chamber of demonstrations where Kastril will have full instructions in dueling, and the lady will have a glass to look in to clear her eyesight for a right view of her future. Face again comes in, and insists on having Pliant- and the point yet remains to be decided. Face brings in Surly disguised as the Spanish Count. He speaks Spanish, and Subtle and Face discuss frankly in English Count. He speaks Spanish, and Subtle and Face discuss frankly in English their plan of duping him, and have no suspicion that the Spanish count is following their talk. And then they quarrel over Plain and finally Subtle seems to yield, her to him. Subtle conducts Surly away, and Face goes off to bring in Ksstril. Face offers to make Pliant a Spanish Countess. Soon, Subtle enters and announces that a great fortune is to befall the lady. Her brother welcomes the idea, but the lady is not agreeable. Under a threat from her brother, she has to submit. So, Surly comes in, and keeps to his Spanish which impresses Kastril, while thinking that it is like low French. Pliant does not know what to make of her wooer. Finally, Surly goes off with Pliant, Subtle now takes Kastril away for his quarrelling lesson.

Mammon finds himself in difficulty with Doll, who is now in a fit of raving. She keeps talking wildly and incoherently. Face enters hastily. He pretends not to know to calm Doll, and on the other hand, apprehends serious consequences in the event of Subtle coming to know of this. At this moment Subtle enters, and they run different ways, Mammon protests that he had no unchaste purpose, and Subtle is surprised to see that he is running away Subtle gives him to understand that his great work has been hindered by the way he is behaving with the lady. He calls for his servant (Face). He hints that he is going to lose his fortunes which have been so far advance, and that at least the success expected will be retarded for a month. Then, a loud explosion comes from within. Face re-enters and reports, that everything’s is in ruin. Subtle falls down in a swoon. Mammon and Face run to his help. There is knocking within. Face says that the lord. the lady’s brother, is come, and tells Mammon that all is lost and mammon is unhappy that he has lost the great chance in his life by his lustful affection Subtle comes to himself and cries against the vice and lust of Mammon. Face manages to send away Mammon, telling him that the lady’s brother might appear on the scene, which would mean a tragedy.

Surly, when he is alone with Dame Pliant, no more speaks Spanish and seeks to open her eyes to the trap, laid for her. He appears as her savior. He tells her that he has come there disguised and expects that as she is handsome, she would be wise too and get away from the clutches of the villains. he offers her his love as a bachelor, counting on her fortune, and begs her to think upon it. Subtle enters at his moment, and attempts to pick Surly’s pockets. Surly strikes him down, and throws away his disguise. Subtle cries for help, and Face enters in his uniform. Surly challenges Face too, exposing all the tricks he is up to. Face slips away, and Surly seizes Subtle. Face re-enters with Kastril, and sets Kastril on Surly describing the latter as a rogue and cheat, employed by another conjurer. Surly appeals to Pliant, but Pliant keeps silent. Face makes it. Out that this fellow has entered in disguise and personates the Spanish count, who is being expected at any moment. At this moment enters Drugger with a damask. Face calls upon Drugger to substantiate the charge of cheating, against Surly-and Drugger readily denounces Surly. Then enters Ananias. Kastril raves against Surly, and Ananias is make to understand that it is all against “Spanish slops”, and Ananias too denounces Surly as an agent of Satan. And Surly has at length to retire Kastril, who has shown such a spirit of quarrelling, is persuaded to go after Surly. Subtle takes Ananias aside. Face deals with Drugger, and suggests to him that he should borrow a Spanish suit if he were to win the lady, for, as he sees, an attempt has been made by the rogue (Surly) to forestall him. So, Drugger is sent away. Ananias informs Subtle that the holy synod holds the casting of money most lawful. But Subtle wants to he assured that they run no risk of being suspected and finally lodged in the Tower. Ananias departs with a promise to get the elders and the weaker brethren to pray and fast for his absolute safety. Face and Subtle are alone for a while Face takes credit for bringing in Kastril. Face has told Drugger to bring a Spanish suit, and it is as he gives out, his intention to who the window as the Count in the Spanish suit. Doll who has been entertaining Pliant, now enters hastily to announce that the master of the house has returned Face who can hardly believe her, goes to the window- and there is his master courtside with forty of his neighbours. They are fully of dismay. Face is however, going to save the situation. He will meet his master and keep him off for the day, and in the meantime they should pack up, and at night he is going to shift them to Ratliff but they must leave at present Mammon’s brass and pewter in the cellar, which can be later removed. He is going to appear before his master in the true character of Jeremy after getting rid of his beard.

Everything seems to be upset by the unexpected arrival of the master of the house (Lovewit). His neighbours crowd round him, reporting what has been going on during his absence-so many, people visiting the house, ladies and gentleman in coaches, citizen’s wives, oyster- women. Sailors wives, tobacco-men, and so on. Lovewit wonders how his man could have attracted such a miscellaneous crowd. His neighbours say that they did not see his butler, Jeremy, for a month in the house; some say that he has been away for more than five or six weeks. Lovewit is more and more surprised. He knocks at the door, but there is no answer. A smith offers to get the door open for him, and he runs to fetch his tools. Then Face appears in his butler’s livery. Face reports to his master that the house is infected, and begs him to keep away from. the door. A cat was taken with the plague, reports Face (now Jeremy) and the house was kept shut up for a month. Lovewit tells him what his neighbours have been reporting to him about gallants, men and women, visiting the house. It must have been an illusion of the neighbours, says Face. The smith returns with his tools, and the neighours repeat to him the story that Face has told. Then appear Surly and Mammon, and Face has a difficult situation to meet. They knock, and Face points out the owner of the house to them. They ask Lovewit whether he has cheats and knaves in his service and names Subtle and Lungs. Lovewit has never heard of them. And Face easily sends them off, but they threat to return with officers and get the door open. Then comes Kastril. He knocks at the door, and cries upon rogues, hawks, and slaves. He demands to see the bawdy doctor (Subtle) and the cozening captain. Face protests that the doors were never open. Then come Ananias and Tribulation, and they find the door shut against them. They and Kastril pick up a row. Lovewit begins to think that they have all turned mad. The neighbours are still there and they testify that they have seen these men come and go often and again. Face maintains that it must have been all in illusion for them. Dapper cries from within. Lovewit is amazed. Dapper cries, “I am almost stifled.” Face says that it is a voice in the air. Subtle inside the house tries to keep Dapper quiet. Lovewit hears Face speaking through the key-hole, and now the truth cannot be concealed. Face persuades his master to dismiss the neighbours. He tells his master that he used his house to make the best of his fortune, and promises a rich young widow to him if he will hut put on a Spanish cloak. He is ready to forgive Face, and he is interested in the widow.

Subtle leads in Dapper with his eyes bandaged. He has swallowed the gag gag of gingerbread into put in to his mouth, and so Subtle tells him that he may lose his chance in that his aunt may not favour him anymore, Face in his uniform enters. He confirms that since he has spoken, he may miss the favour of the Fair aunt. However, the Fairy aunt (Doll) is soon made to appear before Dapper. He kneels and touches her skirt. The Fairy promises him all success if he spends freely and gives away everything. He is offered a fly (a spirit that will help him win in gambling) in a purse, and a promise of three or four hundred chests of treasure and some twelve thousand acres of fairy land. Loaded with these promises, Dapper departs.

Drugger brings his Spanish suit, and Face gives out that he is going to marry the widow, and put on the Spanish suit to woo her. When subtle mentions it to Doll, she thinks that it goes against their pact. He instructs Doll to relieve the widow of her jewels and bracelets in any case. Face re-enters and does into details, items by item, of all the stuff that has been packed up, and demands the keys, and tells them that his master will keep all these things. So, the pact ends between them, and all that face can do is to help them get away in safety, for officers are presently coming over to the place. There is a loud knocking outside, and it is the officers come.

While Lovewit appears in the Spanish dress with the priest there is loud knocking at the door. Mammon, accompanied by an officer, demands that the door be opened. Surly and Kastril are also at the door, Lovewit, after changing the Spanish dress, comes to meet the visitors, who are joined now by Ananias and Tribulation. The visitors are getting so violent in their demands that the officers, at the request of Lovewit have to keep order among them. Lovewit tells them that the house is his, the doors are open and they can enter, and see if there are such persons as they are demanding. He tells them a specious story that his man lent the house during his absence to a doctor and a Capitan, and does not know where they are now. To confirm the story he further tells them that he found inside a few cracked pots and glasses and a furnace, and met one gentlewomen-a widow Kastril cries out that it is his sister, and goes in. And Lovewit adds that the gentlewomen would have married a Spanish Count, and now being let down, has married him. Surly cries out that he has lost her then. And Lovewit tells the story as he had it from the lady, how Surly dyed his beard and darkened his face, borrowed, suit and ruff towing her, and then backed out. Mammon finds, none inside the house and tells them all how he has been fleeced, and claims all the stuff, left in the cellar. Lovewit offers to make it all over to him if he can show that he has been gulled, and bring a writ of court. Ananias and Tribulation claim the orphans’ goods, deposited there. Lovewit asks them whether it is against the stuff in the cellar, and then with a threat manages to get rid of them. And when Drugger appears, Lovewit, beats him off. Kastril now drags out his sister. Lovewit rescues her, and challenges Kastril, and Kastril changes his tone, and expresses his satisfaction at the match, and promises to offer his sister five hundred pounds. And Kastril and Lovewit are going to celebrate the happy occasion with tobacco and drink. Kastril and his sister go inside. Lovewit formally thanks his servant for the wealth and the widow he secured for him, and promises to be a little more indulgent to him. In addressing the audience after his master has done the same, he commends the fun of the whole trick which the audience cannot fail to enjoy.



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