This is an easy-to-read retelling on Ben Jonson's classic comedy "The Alchemist," whose theme is the love of money.
In this retelling, as in all my retellings, I have tried to make the work of literature accessible to modern readers who may lack the knowledge about mythology, religion, and history that the literary work’s contemporary audience had. — 1.1 — In the year 1610, Face and Subtle were in the midst of an argument in a room in Lovewit’s house. Subtle was arguing that he deserved a bigger share of the profits, and Face was strenuously objecting. Face, who had a notable beard, was wearing a Captain’s uniform, and he had drawn his sword. Subtle was carrying a vial of liquid. A worried Doll Common was also in the room. Face threatened, “Believe it, I will.” Subtle responded, “Do your worst. I fart at you.” He turned around, bent over, and farted. Doll, worried that passersby would hear the argument, said, “Have you lost your wits? Why, gentlemen! For the love of —” Ignoring Doll, Face said to Subtle, “Sirrah, I’ll strip you —” He was using “Sirrah” as an insult. It was a term used by a person of high social rank to address a man of low social rank. Subtle said, “So you can do what? Lick the figs sticking out of my —” Face interrupted before Subtle could end his question with the word “ass.” Figs are hemorrhoids. Face said, “Rogue, rogue, I want you to get out and stop all of your cons.” Doll said, “No. Look, Sovereign. Look, General. Are you madmen?” Wanting the two men to stop quarreling, she had given them high and mighty titles. Subtle said to Face, “Oh, let the wild sheep loose.” “Mutton” is a slang word for a prostitute. Face had grabbed hold of Doll, who was standing in between the two men in an attempt to keep them from physically fighting. “Wild” means “licentious.” Subtle continued talking to Face, “I’ll gum your silks with good strong water, if you come near me.” The silks were fancy clothing, and the strong water was the acid in the vial that Subtle was carrying. He was threatening to throw acid on Face’s clothing and ruin it. Doll said, “Will you have the neighbors hear you? Will you ruin everything? Do you want everyone to know what we are up to? “Listen! I hear somebody.” Face began, “Sirrah —” Subtle interrupted, “I shall mar all that the tailor has made, if you approach me.” A tailor-made man is quite different from a self-made man. The clothing of a tailor-made man is worth more than the man wearing the clothing. Face said, “You most notorious whelp — you pup! You insolent slave! Do you dare to do that?” “Yes, indeed. Indeed, yes.” Face said, “Why, who do you think I am, my mongrel! Don’t you know who I am?” “I’ll tell you who you are,” Subtle said, “since you yourself don’t know who you are.” Face said, “Speak lower, rogue. Don’t yell.” He did not like what he was hearing. Subtle said, “Yes, you were once (the time is not long past) the good, honest, plain, livery-three-pound-thrum, who kept your master’s house here in the Blackfriars district during the vacations — the periods of time when the law courts are not active, and fashionable people leave London.” He was calling Face a lowly and low-paid servant. Livery is the distinctive clothing a servant wears. Three pounds was Face’s annual salary. Thrum is poor-quality cloth — which Face’s livery was made of. Face said, “Must you be so loud?” He did not like what he was hearing. Subtle said, “Since then, by my means, you have been transformed into a suburb-Captain.” Subtle had gotten a Captain’s uniform for Face to assist him in playing his part in the cons they were attempting to pull off. Face, of course, could not pass as a Captain in the army, but in the suburbs — the disreputable places outside the city, he could very well pass as a Captain.