The London Merchant Analysis


The London Merchant

Analysis of a play using Aristotle’s six elements as the template

The play “The London Merchant” is a domestic tragedy in English. It entails a sorrowful tale of George Barnwell who is an apprentice. Analysis of the drama according to Aristotle’s six elements of drama will touch on character, action/plot, ideas, language, music analysis and spectacle analysis.

The play

The main character George is brought to his doom by an older but wicked prostitute called Sarah Millwood. We understand the story through the trials and tribulations of the main character making them important in the drama. George is a compelling character because it makes the reader wonder and interested in knowing what is going to happen next. He is engaged in an affair with Sarah who manipulates him to committing unethical deeds. George being naïve enough, he steals money from his employer in order to fund his prostitute (Lillo, 51).

This is done out of the pity he felt for the woman. Barnwell becomes a murderer after killing his Uncle. The two characters are arrested and executed for their crimes. To develop his characters, he uses middle-class characters to avoid losing their dignity. The play glorifies piece, empires and patriotism (Freeman, 50). It also gives the importance of merchants in holding society. Millwood, on the other hand, embodies absolutism political ideology because she defies aspects of sustainability.

Another aspect of Aristotle’s elements of drama is the plot. The play begins when Sarah Millwood a prostitute schemes find some innocent young man in order to exploit. She seduces George and at supper time he succumbs to her wiles. In act two, George feels that he has betrayed Thorowgood since he disobeyed his curfew. He also feels guilty because of his fornication with Millwood. He becomes tormented with his guilt. The following day, Millwood goes to visit him at his place of work (McLaren, 201). But after discovering that George wants nothing with her, she feels that she is losing her game and schemes another. She informs George that her housekeeper found out about their affair and is now evicting her.

A new sense of guilt is developed prompting him to steal a large sum of money from his employer’s funds. In act three, George feels unworthy of his master and runs away leaving a note confessing his crime. Millwood puts him up for a while and convinces him again to rob his uncle. George goes ahead to commit the robbery and murder but in the process, Uncle Barnwell prays d the murderer and his nephew not knowing that they are one and the same (McLaren, 220). George is overcome with sorrow reveals himself. He asks for forgiveness and his uncle does that.

In act four when he comes in at Millwood’s house without money, she sends for the police and he is arrested for murder. Workers who heard their plan to kill George’s uncle reveal this to the police making them arrest Millwood too. George and Millwood are both sentenced to death. In the final act, George is truly apologetic and repents his sins. He is finally at peace with himself and with his God.


The ideas in ‘The London Merchant’ follow a general trend, i.e. it designed a moral message for its readers. The author argues that plays founded on moral tales about private life are often admirable to the readers. The story carries a conviction of the mind and engages all faculties and powers of the soul and thus makes it important to the society as a whole. The book is effective because it ensures the audience that they should learn from the play. It leaves the audience to judge the actions of the characters. For example, George is a good character despite his crimes.

The reader sympathizes with and learns from him. The idea in the book is that people exist for morals but morals do not exist for people. Millwood is another character who is depicted to be operating within the schemes of ethics (McLaren, 300). The play is an example of bourgeois tragedy a genre that was reserved for elite and royal subjects. In this play, Lillo applies the reserve to the middle class by taking a tragedy to their level.


The main idea in the play is the emphasis of George’s kindness and mercy that draws the audience to learn from his actions. It uses condensed language that is easy to understand. It is the language of the business class (Lillo, 70). The writer uses an English accent that is easy to understand and follow. Music used in the play reveals the tragedy depicted in the whole story. It is one that creates tension suspense. The spectacle developed in the play is an exchange and economic element. They serve as a metaphor in the play and they are strongly displayed through passion. Readers are able to learn insatiability is the most dangerous thing in passion. This is because erotic love contrasted to trade has no machinery of abatement and impulse.

Work cited

Lillo, George. The London Merchant: Regents Restoration Drama. U of Nebraska Publishers,

  1. 51 & 70

McLaren, Mary-Rose. The London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century: A Revolution in English

Writing. Boydell & Brewer Publisher, 2002. 201, 220 & 300

Freeman, Lisa. Character’s Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage.

University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. 50

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