Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour is a biting satire against London society decorum. Young city gallants Edward Knowell, Wellbred, and Master Stephen jaunt through the city, visiting the houses of Cob and Master Kitely. While Wellbred and Stephen are most interested in amusements to pass the time, Edward is in love with Kitely’s sister Bridget--and enlists Wellbred’s help to woo her. At the same time, Edward’s father Old Knowell is worried about his son’s interest in poetry, so decides to spy on the young man. At Cob’s house, lodger Captain Bobadil mentors country lad Mathew in swordsmanship (even though Bobadil himself is naturally a coward). Wellbred’s half-brother Squire Downright antagonizes those around him. And on top of it all, the crafty servant Brainworm disguises himself to spy on just about everyone. As a “comedy of humours,” characters are dominated by a singular trait, whether jealousy, melancholy, or overall good humour. Full of family bickering, marital squabbles, and some poetry recitations, Every Man in His Humour is an early example of Renaissance city comedy.
Every Man in His Humour guide sections