Every Man in His Humour by Ben Jonson

“Every Man in His Humour” is a comedic play written by English playwright Ben Jonson in 1598. The play is set in London and follows the story of various characters from different social classes as they navigate their lives and relationships with one another.

The play begins with a quarrel between two gentlemen, Kitely and Cash, who accuse each other of infidelity. Kitely’s wife, Dame Kitely, is at the center of the argument, and both men believe that she is having an affair with the other. Kitely’s servant, Brainworm, overhears the argument and decides to use it to his advantage. He manipulates the situation by spreading rumors and gossip, causing confusion and chaos among the characters.

One of the most memorable characters in the play is Bobadil, a braggart soldier who claims to be a fearless warrior but is actually a coward. He is known for his exaggerated stories and boasts, which make him the butt of many jokes. Another notable character is Matthew, a young man from the country who comes to London to seek his fortune. He is naïve and easily influenced, which leads him to fall in with the wrong crowd and get into trouble.

The play explores various themes, including deception, jealousy, love, and social class. It also provides a glimpse into the daily lives of people in London during the Elizabethan era. Jonson uses humor and satire to comment on the flaws and follies of society, and his characters are often exaggerated caricatures of real people.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Every Man in His Humour” is its use of the “humours” theory, which was popular in the Renaissance era. According to this theory, the human body was composed of four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Each humour was associated with a particular personality type, and it was believed that an imbalance of humours could lead to disease or mental illness.

In the play, each character is associated with a particular humour, which shapes their personality and behavior. For example, Kitely is associated with the humour of choler, which makes him quick-tempered and prone to jealousy. Bobadil is associated with the humour of phlegm, which makes him lazy and cowardly. By using this theory, Jonson was able to create characters that were both realistic and exaggerated, providing a commentary on the human condition that was both insightful and humorous.

“Every Man in His Humour” was a popular play during the Elizabethan era and has remained a classic of English literature. It has been adapted numerous times for the stage and screen, and its influence can be seen in the works of later playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

In conclusion, “Every Man in His Humour” is a comedic masterpiece that provides a window into the social and cultural world of Elizabethan England. Its memorable characters and clever use of satire have made it a classic of English literature that continues to entertain and inspire audiences today.

Historical Context

“Every Man in His Humour” was written during the Elizabethan era, a period of English history that spanned from the late 16th century to the early 17th century. This era was known for its flourishing of arts, literature, and culture, and saw the rise of many important writers and playwrights, including William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

During this time, London was a bustling city that was experiencing rapid growth and expansion. It was also a center of culture and entertainment, with many theaters and playhouses popping up throughout the city. “Every Man in His Humour” was one of the many plays that were performed in these theaters, and it quickly became popular among audiences.

The play was written during a time of great social change in England. The Elizabethan era saw the rise of a new middle class, which included merchants, traders, and other professionals. This new class was becoming increasingly influential in English society, and it challenged the traditional social hierarchies that had been in place for centuries.

“Every Man in His Humour” reflects these changes in society by featuring characters from different social classes. The play shows how these characters interact with one another, and how their social status affects their behavior and relationships. For example, Bobadil, the braggart soldier, is a lower-class character who aspires to be like the higher-class gentlemen he interacts with.

The play also reflects the political and cultural changes that were happening in England at the time. During the Elizabethan era, England was transitioning from a feudal society to a more modern, centralized state. This transition was marked by the rise of nationalism and the emergence of a new sense of English identity.

“Every Man in His Humour” touches on these themes by showing how the characters’ sense of identity is tied to their social class and national identity. For example, Kitely and Cash, the two gentlemen who argue about Kitely’s wife, are both proud Englishmen who believe that they are superior to one another.

In conclusion, “Every Man in His Humour” was written during a time of great change and transition in English society. The play reflects these changes by featuring characters from different social classes and exploring themes of nationalism, identity, and social hierarchy. It remains a classic of English literature and a valuable insight into the cultural and social world of Elizabethan England.\

Key Facts

  • “Every Man in His Humour” is a comedic play written by Ben Jonson in 1598.
  • The play is set in London and follows the story of various characters from different social classes as they navigate their lives and relationships with one another.
  • The play explores various themes, including deception, jealousy, love, and social class.
  • The play features memorable characters such as Bobadil, a braggart soldier, and Matthew, a naive young man from the country.
  • The play uses the “humours” theory popular in the Renaissance era to shape the personalities and behaviors of its characters.
  • The play was popular during the Elizabethan era and has remained a classic of English literature.
  • It has been adapted numerous times for the stage and screen, and its influence can be seen in the works of later playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
  • “Every Man in His Humour” is considered one of Jonson’s most important works, and he went on to write several other plays using similar themes and techniques.