The Alchemist (Johnson): Act 1, Scene 4

Summary of Act 1, scene 4
Doll now announces that she sees Sir Epicure Mammon approaching the house. Subtle tells Face and Doll to change their clothes. He explains that he expected him to come at dawn, for this is the day he promised to perfect the philosopher’s stone for Mammon. Mammon, however, has been pretending for the past month that he already possessed the stone that gives infinite riches and talks about dispensing health and wealth to everyone.
Commentary on Act 1, scene 4
The three scurry in excitement for a more important scam than Dapper and Drugger. Sir Epicure Mammon understands what the philosopher’s stone means and has been fantasizing about it and waiting for Subtle’s experiments to ripen. The reference to the Golden Age at the end of the scene is an important one, for it hints of the larger alchemical goal of creating not just wealth but an ideal world. The stone had spiritual purposes in creating a perfect world of abundance, health, and longevity. Thus, humans could compete with Nature in giving “best love to mankind” (line 28) through the scientific arts. This idea was blasphemous to some, because it made humans try to take on God’s role. Mammon fantasizes himself as a hero able to give money and health to others.