The Alchemist (Johnson): Act 5, Scene 2

Act 5, Scene 2

Summary of Act 5, scene 2
Jeremy answers the door, without his Captain’s beard. He is the plain butler again. Face (Jeremy) claims he had to keep the house locked up because of the plague. Lovewit tells him the rumors from the neighbors, but Jeremy continues with his story until the neighbors back down. They agree Jeremy is an “honest fellow” (line 38). But just then, Surly and Mammon show up.
Commentary on Act 5, scene 2
We assume Jeremy has been able to run his side businesses in secret for a long time because the neighbors believe he is honest. Lovewit is ready to believe he is honest. Lovewit is ready to believe Jeremy as well when he says the cat had the plague, but wonders about the strange visitors he has heard of. Jeremy swears the doors have been locked the whole time, but he is rattled finally at the end of the scene when he sees Mammon and Surly approach. This is the first time Face seems at a loss, though not despairing when he says “Nothing’s more wretched than a guilty conscience,” a line from a Roman comedy of Plautus, which he utters ironically (line 47). This indicates that his spirit is intact.