Every Man in His Humour by Ben Jonson

Persons in the Comedy

Old Knowell

Young Knowell, in love with Bridget

Brain-Worm

Master Stephen, a country gull

Master Matthew, a town gull

Captain Bobadill

Down-Right

Well-Bred, his half-brother

Kitely, husband to Down-right's sister

Cob,

Cash,

Formal

Justice Clement

Dame Kitely

Bridget, Kitely's sister

Tib, Cob's wife

Act I

Scene I.In Knowell's house. Enter Knowell, with a letter from Well-Bred to Young Knowell.

Knowell: This letter is directed to my son.
Yet I will break it open.
What's here? What's this?

(Reads) "Why, Ned, I beseech thee, hast thou forsworn
all thy friends i' the Old Jewry? Dost thou
think us all Jews that inhabit there yet? If thou dost,
come over and but see our frippery. Leave thy vigilant
father alone, to number over his green apricots evening
and morning, o' the north-west wall. Prythee, come over
to me quickly this morning; I have such a present for
thee! One is a rhymer, sir, o' your own batch, but doth
think himself a poet-major of the town; the other, I
will not venture his description till you come."
Why, what unhallowed ruffian would have writ
In such a scurrilous manner to a friend!
Why should he think I tell my apricots?

[Enter Brain-Worm.

Take you this letter, and deliver it my son,
But with no notice I have opened it, on your life.

[Exeunt. Then, enter Young Knowell, with the letter, and Brain-Worm.

Young Knowell: Did he open it, say'st thou?

Brain-Worm: Yes, o' my word, sir, and read the contents. For he charged me on my life to tell nobody that he opened it, which unless he had done he would never fear to have it revealed.

[Young Knowell moves apart to read the letter. Enter Stephen. Knowell laughs.

Stephen: 'Slid, I hope he laughs not at me; an he do——

Knowell: Here was a letter, indeed, to be intercepted by a man's father! Well, if he read this with patience—— (Seeing Stephen) What, my wise cousin! Nay, then, I'll furnish our feast with one gull more. How now, Cousin Stephen—melancholy?

STEPHEN: Yes, a little. I thought you had laughed at me, cousin.

Knowell: Be satisfied, gentle coz, and, I pray you, let me entreat a courtesy of you. I am sent for this morning by a friend in the Old Jewry: will you bear me company?

Stephen: Sir, you shall command me twice as far.

Knowell: Now, if I can but hold him up to his height!

Scene II.Bobadill's room, a mean chamber, in Cob's house. Bobadill lying on a bench. Enter Matthew, ushered in by Tib.

Matthew: 'Save you, sir; 'save you, captain.


Bobadill: Gentle Master Matthew! Sit down, I pray you. Master Matthew in any case, possess no gentlemen of our acquaintance with notice of my lodging. Not that I need to care who know it! But in regard I would not be too popular and generally visited, as some are.

Matthew: True, captain, I conceive you.

Bobadill: For do you see, sir, by the heart of valour in me except it be to some peculiar and choice spirit like yourself—but what new book have you there?

Matthew: Indeed, here are a number of fine speeches in this book.

"O eyes, no eyes, but fountains fraught with tears"—

There's a conceit! Another:

"O life, no life but lively form of death!
O world, no world but mass of public wrongs"—

O the Muses! Is't not excellent? But when will you come to see my study? Good faith I can show you some very good things I have done of late. But, captain, Master Well-bred's elder brother and I are fallen out exceedingly.

Bobadill: Squire Down-right, the half-brother was't not? Hang him rook! Come hither; you shall chartel  him. I'll show you a trick or two you shall kill him with, at pleasure, the first staccato, if you will, by this air. Come, put on your cloak, and we'll go to some private place where you are acquainted, some tavern or so. What money ha' you about you?

Matthew: Faith, not past a two shillings or so.

Bobadill: 'Tis somewhat with the least; but come, we will have a bunch of radish and salt to taste our wine, and after we'll call upon Young Well-bred.

[Exeunt.

Act II

Scene I.Kitely's house. Kitely explains to Down-Right that Well-Bred, who lodges with him brings riotous companions to the house, which makes him much troubled for his pretty wife and sister. Bobadill and Matthew calling in search of Well-Bred, the former insults Down-Right, and leaves him storming.

Scene II.Moorfields. Enter Brain-Worm, disguised as a maimed soldier.

Brain-Worm: The truth is, my old master intends to follow my young master, dry-foot, over Moorfields to London this morning. Now I, knowing of this hunting match, or rather conspiracy, and to insinuate with my young master, have got me before in this disguise, determining here to lie in ambuscade. If I can but get his cloak, his purse, his hat, anything to stay his journey, I am made for ever, in faith. But here comes my young master and his cousin, as I am a true counterfeit man of war, and no soldier.

[Enter Young Knowell and Stephen. Brain-Worm, with a cock-and-bull tale of his services in the wars, persuades Stephen to buy his sword as a pure Toledo. Exeunt. Presently, enter Old Knowell, and Brain-Worm meets him.

Brain-Worm (aside): My master! Nay, faith, have at you; I am fleshed now, I have sped so well. Worshipful sir, I beseech you, respect the estate of a poor soldier; I am ashamed of this base course of life, but extremity provokes me to it; what remedy?

Knowell: I have not for you now.

Brain-Worm: Good sir, by that hand, you may do the
part of a kind gentleman, in lending a poor soldier the
price of a can of beer; Heaven shall pay you, sweet worship!

Knowell: Art thou a man, and shamest not thou to beg? To practise such a servile kind of life? Either the wars might still supply thy wants, Or service of some virtuous gentleman.

Brain-Worm: Faith, sir, I would gladly find some other course—I know what I would say; but as for service—my name, sir? Please you, Fitzsword, sir.

Knowell: Say that a man should entertain thee now, Would'st thou be modest, humble, just, and true?

Brain-Worm: Sir, by the place and honour of a soldier.

Knowell: Nay, nay, I like not these affected oaths. But follow me; I'll prove thee.

[Exit.

Brain-Worm: Yes, sir, straight. 'Slid, was there ever a fox in years to betray himself thus! Now shall I be possessed of all his counsels, and by that conduit, my young master.

[Follows Knowell.

Act III

Scene I.A room in the Windmill Tavern. Well-Bred, Bobadill, Matthew. Enter Young Knowell with Stephen.

Well-Bred: Ned Knowell! By my soul, welcome!
(Lower) Sirrah, there be the two I writ of. But what strange piece of silence is this? The sign of the Dumb  Man?

Knowell: Oh, sir, a kinsman of mine; he has his humour, sir.

Stephen: My name is Master Stephen, sir; I am this gentleman's own cousin, sir; I am somewhat melancholy, but you shall command me.

Matthew: Oh, it's your only fine humour, sir. Your true melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit. I am melancholy myself, divers times, and then I do no more but take pen and paper presently, and overflow you half a score or a dozen of fine sonnets at a sitting.

Well-Bred: Captain Bobadill, why muse you so?

Knowell: He is melancholy, too.

Bobadill: Why, sir, I was thinking of a most honourable piece of service was performed at the beleaguering of Strigonium; the first but the best leaguer that ever I beheld with these eyes. Look you, sir, by St. George, I was the first man that entered the breach; and had I not effected it with resolution, I had been slain if I had had a million of lives. Observe me judicially, sweet sir. They had planted me three demiculvirins just in the mouth of the breach, but I, with these single arms, my poor rapier, ran violently upon the Moors, and put 'em pell-mell to the sword.

[Enter Brain-Worm, who discloses himself apart, to Knowell and Well-Bred, and reports that Old Knowell is awaiting his return at Justice Clement's house. Exeunt.

Scene II.At Kitely's. Kitely has gone to Justice Clement's; very anxious about his wife and sister, he has ordered Cash to send him a messenger if Well-Bred comes home with any of his boon-companions. Enter to Cash, Well-Bred, with the party as in the last scene.

Well-Bred: Whither went your master, Thomas, canst thou tell?

Cash: I know not; to Justice Clement's, I think, sir.

[Exit.

Knowell: Justice Clement! What's he?

Well-Bred: Why, dost thou not know him? He is a city magistrate, a justice here, an excellent good lawyer and a great scholar; but the only mad merry old fellow in Europe.

[Enter Cash.

Bobadill: Master Kitely's man, pray thee vouchsafe us the lighting of this match. (Cash takes match, and exits) 'Tis your right, Trinidado. Did you never take any, Master Stephen?

Stephen: No, truly, sir, but I'll learn to take it now, since you commend it so.

Bobadill: Sir, I have been in the Indies where this herb grows; where neither myself nor a dozen gentlemen more of my knowledge have received the taste of any other nutriment in the world for the space of one and twenty weeks, but the fume of this simple only. By Hercules, I do hold it, and will affirm it, before any prince in Europe, to be the most sovereign and precious weed that ever the earth tendered to the use of man.

[Cob has entered meanwhile.

Cob: Mack, I marvel what pleasure they have in taking this roguish tobacco. It's good for nothing but to choke a man, and fill him full of smoke and embers. And there were no wiser men than I, I'd have it present whipping, man or woman, that should but deal with a tobacco pipe.

[Bobadill cudgels him. Enter Cash, who drags off the lamenting Cob. While the rest are conversing, Matthew and Bobadill slip out.

Well-Bred: Soft, where's Master Matthew? Gone?

Brain-Worm: No, sir, they went in here.

Well-Bred: Oh, let's follow them. Master Matthew  is gone to salute his mistress in verse. We shall have the happiness to hear some of his poetry now. He never comes impoverished.

[Exeunt.

Scene III.Justice Clement's. Cob finds Kitely and reports the arrival of Well-Bred's party. Kitely hurries home in a panic. Enter Clement with Old Knowell and Formal.

Clement (to Cob): How now, sirrah? What make you here?

Cob: A poor neighbour of your worship, come to crave the peace of your worship; a warrant for one that has wronged me, sir; an I die within a twelvemonth and a day, I may swear by the law of the land that he killed me.

Clement: How, knave? What colour hast thou for that?

Cob: Both black and blue, an't please your worship; colour enough, I warrant you. [Baring his arm.

Clement: How began the quarrel between you?

Cob: Marry indeed, an't please your worship, only because I spake against their vagrant tobacco; for nothing else.

Clement: Ha! You speak against tobacco. Your name?

Cob: Cob, sir, Oliver Cob.

Clement: Then, Oliver Cob, you shall go to jail.

Cob: Oh, I beseech your worship, for heaven's sake, dear master justice!

Clement: He shall not go; I did but fear the knave. Formal, give him his warrant. (Exeunt Formal and Cob) How now, Master Knowell, in dumps? Your cares are nothing. What! Your son is old enough to govern himself; let him run his course.

Act IV

Scene I.At Kitely's. Dame Kitely and Down-Right, who, to his sister's great indignation, is reproving her for admitting Well-Bred's companions. Enter Bridget, Matthew, and Bobadill; Well-Bred, Stephen, Young Knowell, and Brain-Worm at the back.

Bridget: Servant, in truth, you are too prodigal
Of your wit's treasure thus to pour it forth
Upon so mean a subject as my worth.
What is this same, I pray you?

Matthew: Marry, an elegy, an elegy, an odd toy.
I'll read it if you please.

[Exit Down-Right, disgusted. The rest listen to Matthew's "elegy," consisting of scraps from Marlowe. As Down-Right re-enters, fuming, Well-Bred is beginning to chaff Matthew. Down-Right interrupts with an attack on the whole company, and threatens to slit Bobadill's ears. Swords are drawn all round, and Knowell is endeavouring to calm the disturbance, when Kitely enters.

Well-Bred: Come, let's go. This is one of my brother's ancient humours, this.

Stephen: I am glad nobody was hurt by his "ancient humour."

[Exeunt all but they of the house. Bridget and Dame Kitely praise the conduct of Knowell, whereupon Kitely conceives that he must be Dame Kitely's lover.

Scene II.The Old Jewry. Well-Bred has agreed with Knowell to persuade Bridget to meet him at the Tower so that they may be married. Brain-Worm has been despatched to carry out other details of the plot. Meeting Old Knowell with Formal he reports that (as Fitzsword) his connection with OLD Knowell has been discovered; that he has escaped  with difficulty from Young Knowell, and that the father had better hasten to Cob's house to catch his son in flagrante delicto. He then goes off with Formal. Enter Bobadill, Young Knowell, Matthew, and Stephen.

Bobadill: I will tell you, sir, by way of private; were I known to her majesty, I would undertake to save three parts of her yearly charge in holding war. Thus, sir, I would select nineteen more gentlemen of good spirit; and I would teach the special rules, your punto, your reverso, your staccato, till they could all play very near as well as myself. We twenty would come into the field, and we would challenge twenty of the enemy; kill them, challenge twenty more; kill them, and thus kill every man his twenty a day, that's twenty score; twenty score, that's two hundred; five days a thousand, two hundred days kills forty thousand.

[Enter Down-Right, who challenges Bobadill to draw on the spot, and cudgels him while Matthew runs away, to Knowell's enjoyment. Exeunt all. Well-Bred makes the proposed arrangement with Bridget. Brain-Worm, who has stolen Formal's clothes, tricks Kitely and Dame Kitely severally into hurrying off to Cob's house to catch each other in misdoing. Then, meeting Bobadill and Matthew he engages to procure them a warrant against Down-Right, and a sergeant to serve it. Old Knowell, Kitely, and Dame Kitely attended by Cash, meet outside Cob's house, each with their own suspicions; there is a general altercation, while TIB refuses to admit any of them.

Scene III.A street. Brain-Worm, who has exchanged Formal's clothes for a sergeant's attire. Enter Matthew and Bobadill.

Matthew: 'Save you, friend. Are you not here by appointment of Justice Clement's man?

Brain-Worm: Yes, an't please you, sir; with a warrant to be served on one Down-right.

[Enter Stephen, wearing Down-Right's cloak, which he had picked up in the scrimmage. As they are arresting him, Down-Right enters. He submits to arrest, but has Stephen arrested for wearing his cloak. The whole party marches off to Justice Clement's.

Act V

Scene.Hall in Justice Clement's. Clement, Kitely, Old Knowell.

Clement: Stay, stay, give me leave; my chair, sirrah. Master Knowell, you went to meet your son. Mistress Kitely, you went to find your husband; you, Master Kitely, to find your wife. And Well-bred told her first, and you after. You are gulled in this most grossly all.

[Bobadill and Matthew are ushered in; then Brain-Worm, with Down-Right and Stephen; all make their charges.

Clement: You there (to Bobadill), had you my warrant for this gentleman's apprehension?

Bobadill: Ay, an't please your worship; I had it of your clerk.

Clement: Officer (to Brain-Worm), have you the warrant?

Brain-Worm: No, sir; your worship's man, Master Formal, bid me do it.

Brain-Worm, in fear of some worse penalty, discloses himself. As he reveals one after another of his devices, the delighted Justice begs for him a readily granted pardon from Old Knowell. Finally, he announces that by this time Young Knowell and Bridget are married. Clement despatches a servant to bring home the young couple to dinner "upon my warrant." Enter Bridget, Young Knowell, and Well-Bred.

Clement: Oh, the young company—welcome, welcome, give you joy. Nay, Mistress Bridget, blush not; Master Bridegroom, I have made your peace; give me your hand. So will I for all the rest, ere you forsake my roof. Come, put off all discontent; you, Master Down-right, your anger; you, Master Knowell, your cares; Master Kitely and his wife, their jealousy.

Kitely: Sir, thus they go from me. Kiss me, sweetheart.

Clement: 'Tis well, 'tis well. This night we'll dedicate to friendship, love, and laughter.

 Ben Jonson was born at Westminster in 1573. He was brought up by his stepfather, a master bricklayer, and educated at Westminster School, where he got his learning under Camden. While still a youngster, he went a-fighting in the Low Countries, returning to London about 1592. In 1598 he emerged as a dramatic author with the play "Every Man in His Humour." This was the first of a series of comedies, tragedies, and masques, which rank highly. In human interest, however, none surpassed his first success. Unlike Shakespeare, with whom he consorted among the famous gatherings of wits at the Mermaid Tavern, Jonson regarded himself as the exponent of a theory of dramatic art. He was steeped in classical learning, which he is wont to display somewhat excessively. Besides his dramas, Jonson wrote many lyrical pieces, including some admirable songs, and produced sundry examples of other forms of versification. He died on August 6, 1637.

Arthur Mee J. A. Hammerton