The Alchemist (Jonson): Act 2, Scene 5

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Act 2, Scene 5

 

Summary of Act 2, scene 5
 
Ananais is a young disciple of the Anabaptist group that Subtle has been dealing with. Subtle must use a different tactic with him than with Mammon. Subtle and Face engage in the same alchemical rhetoric as before but now instead of impressing the victim, they try to intimidate him with words he doesn’t understand. Every time Ananais raises a religious objection, they throw at him Greek and Latin terms. He objects: “All’s heathen but the Hebrew” (line 18). Subtle claims to be helping the sect with “orphans’ goods” (line 53) that are coming to the house. Subtle will charitably change their goods to gold and the religious sect can buy into this project and get some of the gold objects to finance their own good works. These are of course Mammon’s household goods that Subtle is reselling.
 
Ananais says his elders want to see the projection first. They have already given enough money. Subtle agrees to meet with them thinking the elders will be easier to deal with than Ananais.
 
Commentary on Act 2, scene 5
 
Ananais is not easily conned because he is a kind of indoctrinated robot and can’t understand what Subtle is talking about. He is sure, however, it must be sacrilegious. Subtle pretends to be shocked by Ananais’s name, for it was the name of a Biblical figure that tricked the Apostles.
 
The appearance of the Anabaptists, a severe Puritan sect, is a surprising turn of events. Why should they be interested in a scam? A religious sect should be more alert and know you can’t get something for nothing. They appear to be quite interested in getting hold of these forbidden riches.
 

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