The Alchemist (Jonson): Act 3, Scene 5

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Act 3, Scene 5

 

Summary of Act 3, scene 5
 
Subtle disguised as a Priest of Fairy enters and questions Face whether Dapper has done the required things to prepare to meet the Queen of Fairy. As he has obeyed he may put on “the Petticoat of Fortune” (line 7) and a dress to meet her. They blindfold him. He must be rid of all worldly goods like the coins in his pocket. The elves (played by Face and Subtle) come to pinch him if he holds back. In the middle of this charade, Doll says Sir Epicure Mammon is at the door. They decide to hold Dapper at bay, waiting for the Queen of Fairy, while Doll plays another part and satisfies Mammon. They tell Dapper the Queen of Fairy is busy but has sent him gingerbread, which he must keep in his mouth. Doll hides him in the privy (toilet).
 
Commentary on Act 3, scene 5
 
This is a climax of comedy. There seems to be literally no end to what the victims are ready to swallow, or to the creativity of the swindlers. Dapper is the most stupid of the gulls, allowing himself to be dressed up as a woman and thrust into the privy with a gag in his mouth. By laughing at Dapper’s gullibility we laugh at our own desire to take a short cut to good fortune. At this pinnacle of foolery, it can only get funnier by seeing the illusions unveiled.
 
 

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