Every Man in His Humor
a comedy of outrageous manners
by Ben Jonson

directed by Paul Hecht, Assistant Professor of English
April 20-22, 2007



Every Man in His Humor

Every Man in His Humor was first performed in 1598 by Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and it is almost certain that Shakespeare himself acted in the play. As the title indicates, the play presents the interconnected antics of people from all levels of Elizabethan society.  A rebellious son seeks to escape his strict father, pretentious fools put on airs of gentlemen, and pursue ladies above their station.  A braggart soldier shows off fencing moves to a fawning toady.  Women look on, alternately appalled and amused, by the ridiculous activities of men.  A clever servant disguises and outwits all manner of his supposed betters.  A rich merchant tortures himself with jealousy for his innocent wife.  A bellicose, roaring older brother attacks those men who he decides are attempting to corrupt his sister with poetry.  As various plots and subterfuges threaten to explode into mayhem and violence, we wonder how people can escape their “humors,” the equivalent of what we think of as “genetic disposition” or “character type.”  What kind of learning is pretentious, puffing drivel, and what imparts genuine wisdom?  Who has wisdom, when the smartest people in the society at times appear to be stuck at the bottom?  How can human folly be stopped in its tracks, or at least slowed down for a while?  Every Man in His Humor shows people at their most ridiculous, and shows them grasping after wisdom and beauty, and sometimes finding it, as they tumble through uncertain, unpredictable, raucous life.


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