Every Man in His Humour

by

Ben Jonson

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Every Man in His Humour: Act 4, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bridget, Matthew, Bobadil, Wellbred, Stephen, Edward, and Brainworm all enter at Kitely’s house. Matthew intends to read some poetry to Bridget, causing Downright to leave; he’d rather “endure the stocks.”
Downright has a distaste for pretentiousness—in fact, it riles him up. The “stocks” refers an old instrument of public punishment, in which a person’s feet and hands are locked into holes in a wooden structure.
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Edward and Wellbred listen amusedly as Matthew utters “stolen remnants” from Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, passing them off as his own: “Would God my rude words had the influence, / To rule thy thoughts, as thy fair looks do mine.”
Matthew plagiarizes from another popular work of the time, as in his earlier conversation with Bobadil. The quote is apt though, as it neatly sums up the potential power of words—and the command of them that Matthew would like to have. Marlowe was a contemporary of Jonson.
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Wellbred asks Matthew “who made these verses.” Matthew claims to have written them, “extempore,” that very morning. Downright re-enters, increasingly vexed by the people present. Wellbred implores Bridget not to accept Matthew’s advances, calling them “tricks.”
To extemporize is to make poetry up on the spot, so Matthew is claiming to have come up with his quotes that very morning. Downright is ready for a fight.
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Downright takes offence at Wellbred’s use of the word “tricks.” Tensions between them quickly ramp up, and Downright tells Wellbred to go and “practice your ruffian-tricks somewhere else.” He criticizes the company Wellbred keeps and, suddenly, both men draw their weapons. Bobadil draws his sword too. The others separate them as Cash enters.
Wellbred’s use of the word “tricks”, which carries with it sexual innuendo, isn’t necessarily a deliberate provocation—but it certainly angers Downright.
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