In his illuminating chapter on The Alchemist in The Broken Compass, Edward B. Partridge discusses the central role of the parody of religion. But he adds the surprising comment that Jonson ‘only sketches it in outline lest the impiety neutralize the comic tone’ (The Broken- Compass, Chatto & Windus, London, 1957). I wish to argue that the caricature of religion in the figure of Sir Epicure Mammon is strong and would have been recognized and condemned as such by the contemporary audience.
The insane hyperbole of Mammon's language is evident immediately on his arrival at Lovewit's house. To him, the den of thieves and prostitutes in which we have just seen Dapper and Drugger pettily deluded and swindled, is ‘the novo orbe,’ ‘the rich Peru.'