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In the main plot, a gentleman named Kno'well, concerned for his son's moral development, attempts to spy on his son, a typical city gallant; however, his espionage is continually subverted by the servant, Brainworm, whom he employs for this purpose. These types are clearly slightly Anglicized versions of new comedy's senex, son, and slave. In the subplot, a merchant named Kitely suffers intense jealousy, fearing that his wife is sleeping with Wellbred, a squire who is visiting in their home. The characters of these two plots are surrounded by various "humorous" characters, all in familiar English types: the irascible soldier, country gull, pretentious pot-poets, surly water-bearer, and avuncular judge all make an appearance. The play works through a series of complications which culminate when the justice, Clement, hears and decides all of the characters' various grievances, exposing each of them as based in humor, misapperception, or deceit. The details of the plot, are, however, less important than the style of the play. Jonson's purpose is delineated in the prologue he wrote for the folio version. These lines, which have justly been taken as applying to Jonson's comic theory in general, are especially appropriate to this play. He promises to present "deeds, and language, such as men do use:/ And persons, such as comedy would choose,/ When she would show an Image of the times,/ And sport with human follies, not with crimes." The play follows out this implicit rejection of the romantic comedy of his peers. It sticks quite carefully to the Aristotelian unities; the plot is a tightly woven mesh of act and reaction; the scenes a genial collection of depictions of everyday life in a large Renaissance city.
Jonson revised the play for the 1616 folio. Every Man out of His Humour. The most significant change was in the location. not only that George Chapman's An Humorous Day's Mirth preceded Jonson's play by a year or more. Even in the original version. which became his first indisputable hit. William Sly. Jonson wrote what would prove to be a much less popular sequel. the background details were English. The play was revived around 1670. Christopher Beeston. The folio also gives a cast list for the original 1598 production. Henry Condell. Augustine Phillips. it seems more likely that Jonson was using a contemporary taste aroused by Chapman to draw interest to his play. the changes he made served chiefly to focus attention on the part of Kitely. After Shakespeare. The 1598 edition was set in a vaguely identified Florence. the main players are given in the following order: Richard Burbage. (Kempe would leave the company the next year.) In 1599. William Kempe. the revision formalizes this fact by giving the characters English names and replacing the vaguely English details with specific references to London places. The largest change was an entirely new scene featuring . Thomas Pope. John Heminges. and John Duke." Since only Kitely is dominated by a "humour" as Jonson defined it in Every Man Out of His Humour. where it was the first play presented.History Critics of the nineteenth century tended to credit Jonson with the introduction of "humour" comedy into English literature. It is now well known. David Garrick brought a revised version to the stage in 1751. Sackville provided a verse epilogue in which Jonson himself appeared as a ghost. for his famous morris dance from London to Norwich. but that Jonson himself was not especially intrigued by the trope of "humours. which he played.
Much of the contemporary critical discussion of the play analyzes the changes made to the 1598 Quarto version. Every Man in His Humour also popularized the theory of humours and is regarded as a major work of comic realism. the country fool Stephen. who assumes several disguises to trick the elder Knowell and foil his pursuit. upper-class man. and to seek the hand of Bridget. such as the braggart soldier Bobadill. which were incorporated into the 1616 Folio revision. The production featured a prologue by William Whitehead and proved popular enough for many revivals. Plot and Major Characters The central plot of Every Man in His Humour concerns the adventures of a young. the play fell from regular use. Edward solicits the help of his father's clever servant.only Kitely and his wife. all of whom are exemplars for particular personality traits based on the theory of humours. by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Edward Knowell. Edward's father regards the match as ill-advised and resolves to follow to the city to prevent the marriage. with the rest of Jonson's comedies. despite his wellintentioned father's attempts to prevent the wedding. the play's popularity arose more from Garrick than from Jonson. the play was first printed in 1601. the play chronicles the efforts of a young. in which Kitely attempts to hide his jealousy. INTRODUCTION Every Man in His Humour is one of Jonson's best-known and most influential plays. well-born man to wed his true love. Wellbred. However. The play closes in the courtroom of the . Initially staged in 1598 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men (which included William Shakespeare in the cast). The characters encounter various eccentrics. Considered a comedy of intrigue. and the city fool Matthew. Realizing that his father is following him and intent on sabotaging his attempts to wed Bridget. Jonson made significant revisions to the play for publication in his Works (1616). who visits the city both to visit his friend. as critics near the end of the eighteenth century noted. who is from a lower economic and social class. the jealous husband Kitely. Brainworm.
as can the characters of the cunning servant and the braggart soldier. Edward's father accepts his son's marriage and the play ends with the classic ritual of the wedding feast. Although Jonson was not the first to employ the idea of humours in a drama. his use of the conceit in Every Man in His Humour is considered exemplary. particularly from Plautus's comedies in form and structure. the play is considered influential because it laid the groundwork for comic realism on the English stage and popularized the comedy of humours. even before Jonson's 1616 revision changed the setting from Florence to London. phlegm. the plot centers on an unlikely couple overcoming obstacles—particularly familial and social opposition—to marry. Commentators contend that key features of the play are derived from classical drama. Moreover. Critical Reception Critics assert that Every Man in His Humour was Jonson's first successful play and established his playwriting career.” Originally a medical term. and yellow bile. which can be traced to ancient times. causes a personality disturbance. Most critical analyses of the play focus on the extensive revisions Jonson made to the 1598 Quarto version for publication in his 1616 . the concept of a pair of stately. Like those plays. In Every Man in His Humour Jonson worked these theories into his drama to great effect—the characters in the work show clear evidence of their individual imbalances of humours. “humours” were the fluids believed to regulate the body and by extension the human temperament. or humours.eccentric Justice Clement. In addition. The work is also considered a predecessor of comic realism on the English stage—Jonson's London audiences recognized the play's characters as fellow citizens. is that there are four distinct bodily fluids: blood. elderly people outwitted by a pair of clever young men can be traced back to Plautine comedy. and such characterization continued to be a feature of his work. Major Themes Every Man in His Humour popularized the “comedy of humours. An imbalance of these fluids. black bile. The theory. where the young couple is wed.
his utilization of classical elements. . Other commentators have discussed Every Man in His Humour in the context of Jonson's oeuvre and laud his mastery of form. characters were given English names. and a notable speech was excised from the end of the play. the topical and the timeless. the concept of humours was strengthened. and his successful blend of the serious and comic. in the Folio version of the play Jonson added a prologue that presents the essential dramatic theory for all his comedies. In addition.Folio revision of Every Man in His Humour: commentators note that Jonson changed the setting of the play from Florence to London. his vivid and expansive depiction of London life in the 1600s.