The Alchemist (Jonson): Act 2, Scene 2

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Summary of Act 2, scene 2

 
As Mammon enters the house, he continues describing what the philosopher’s stone will do for him. He addresses both Surly and Face, who is now dressed as “Lungs,” the bellows operator for the alchemical furnace. Lungs says the “projection,” or final stage of producing the stone, will happen in three hours. Mammon says he will liberate Lungs from the furnace and make him “master/ Of my seraglio” (lines 33-34). He imagines that Solomon also had the stone, the source of all his wives and concubines. He continues to picture sensual excesses, declaring he will be able to seduce the pure wives of other men for his pleasure. His visions become more and more depraved.
 
Surly points out the legend that only a very devout man is worthy of the philosopher’s stone. Mammon is disqualifying himself. Mammon’s answer is that he is buying the pure man—Subtle, the Doctor.
 
Commentary on Act 2, scene 2
 
Mammon shows himself not only a materialist looking for luxury and power, but also totally corrupt in his morals. He wants to use the power of the stone to control and destroy. He actually believes he can buy another’s man (supposed) purity to produce the stone. Mammon is the most grossly deluded of the characters, and even the loathsome Surly recognizes his error. Traditionally, the philosopher’s stone could only be attempted by a pure soul, for it was a spiritual pursuit, not a worldly one.
 
 

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