Compare and contrast Ben Jonson’s ‘The Alchemist’ and Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’

Compare and contrast Ben Jonson’s ‘The Alchemist’ and Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’

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The study will encompass the compare and contrast of two great writers’ literary works. It will take comprehensive discussion on “Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist” and “William Shakespeare’s The Tempest”. Jonson and Shakespeare were contemporaries with more immediately recognizable common ground between them than difference. They shared the same profession and brought forth their works from the matrix of common intellectual property. They appealed to the same audience and both gained popularity and esteem as accomplished playwrights. At the more social level, they were both 'struggling' artists conscious of the need for patronage and support from their wealthier and more powerful peers. Both Jonson and Shakespeare experienced the trials and thrills of social mobility, as they traversed the rocky ground from humble beginnings to intellectual, professional, and financial independence. All this is quite obvious. Less easy to define and pin down is the palpable difference that seems to have delineated two distinct theoretical and practical paradigms. This was noted by Jonson himself, in his somewhat patronizing critique of Shakespeare's methodology. One gets a clear impression from this passage that Jonson deemed Shakespeare a nice enough guy with a good enough talent, but that there was certainly room for improvement.


Discussion
Many exposures to primary alchemical material from the post medieval period suggests a possible explanation to account for some of the differences between Shakespeare and Jonson, not only in relation to their dramaturgy, but also with regard to the subsequent reception and appreciation of their respective works. Two modem works of criticism provide the clue along which my argument progresses, and help to ...


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...Jonson's The Alchemist and Shakespeare's The Tempest within the context of the Renaissance conception of alchemy, I have become more and more convinced that while Jonson's play sets forth a largely pessimistic and resigned some would say realistic appreciation of the human situation, Shakespeare's work, on the whole, offers a more hopeful outlook on the possible fate of humanity. Both Shakespeare and Jonson treat of a world which has been hurled topsy-turvy into the ring of eternity, and both attempt to redeem serenity and illumination from the chaos which informs time and space of the here-and-now. However, while Shakespeare, in his last personally completed play, bodies forth the poise and promise of consummation, Jonson's broken compass stands as an abiding monument to the unattainable, though ever-alluring and philosopher's Stone of selfhood and actualisation.

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