Every Man in His Humour


Ben Jonson

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Every Man in His Humour: Act 1, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Matthew, the town “gull,” arrives at the house of Cob the water-bearer, wondering if the latter man knows the whereabouts of Captain Bobadil. They banter a little, with Cob claiming to be descended from a royal line of fish—he insists that he is related to King Herring, “the king of fish.” Matthew is surprised to learn that Bobadil is actually lodging with Cob—he thought he would be staying elsewhere.
Matthew is the urban idiot to Stephen’s countryside variant. Cob’s comments about his lineage introduce an element of absurdity to the play, and gently mimic and mock the prevalent trend of people talking up their family history. The fact that Bobadil is lodging with Cob is sensed by Matthew as embarrassing, and should serve as a warning sign that Bobadil is not quite the authentically heroic soldier he claims to be.
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Cob explains that Bobadil is asleep on a bench inside his house; Matthew goes in to look for him. Cob talks to himself about Matthew. Apparently, Matthew has been frequenting one of the houses where Cob delivers water—Kitely’s—and is in love with Bridget Kitely. Cob is appalled by Matthew’s habit of reading “rascally verses, poyetry” and making the women “tee-hee” at him. 
Matthew uses poetry as a way of cultivating an air of sophistication—but his quotes are often plagiarized. Poetry is presented as a potential route to a lover’s heart.
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