Every Man in His Humour

by

Ben Jonson

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Old Knowell Character Analysis

Old Knowell is an old gentleman, Edward’s father and Brainworm’s master. He is an overbearing parent, worrying about Edward’s interest in “idle poetry” and the company that he keeps (young gallants such as Wellbred). Though he attempts to talk himself out of doing so, Knowell ends up trying to spy on his son, intercepting a letter meant for him and following him towards the Old Jewry (where Edward intends to meet up with Wellbred). Brainworm, more on the side of Edward, tricks Old Knowell by pretending to be an ex-soldier who takes on a role as Old Knowell’s servant. This means that Edward quickly gets wind of what Old Knowell is up to. Old Knowell learns of Brainworm’s and Edward’s deceptions but, ultimately, forgives them. He is reassured by Justice Clement that he is worrying too much about his son, and seems glad to see that Edward marries Mistress Bridget. Perhaps Old Knowell’s most important contribution comes in Act 2, Scene 5, in which he delivers a long speech on the nature of parenthood, wondering whether parents imbue their children with the same faults that they had.

Old Knowell Quotes in Every Man in His Humour

The Every Man in His Humour quotes below are all either spoken by Old Knowell or refer to Old Knowell. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Every Man in His Humour published in 2009.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

How happy yet should I esteem myself,
Could I, by any practice, wean the boy
From one vain course of study he affects.
He is a scholar, if a man may trust
The liberal voice of fame in her report,
Of good account in both our Universities,
Either of which hath favoured him with graces:
But their indulgence must not spring in me
A fond opinion that he cannot err.
Myself was once a student, and indeed,
Fed with the self-same humour he is now,
Dreaming on nought but idle poetry,
That fruitless and unprofitable art,
Good unto none, but least to the professors;
Which then I thought the mistress of all knowledge:
But since, time and the truth have waked my judgment.
And reason taught me better to distinguish
The vain from the useful learnings.

Related Characters: Old Knowell (speaker), Edward Knowell
Related Symbols: Poetry
Page Number: 8-10
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

I am resolved, I will not stop his journey;
Nor practise any violent means, to stay
The unbridled course of youth in him; for that,
Restrained, grows more impatient; and, in kind,
Like to the eager but the generous greyhound,
Who ne'er so little from his game withheld,
Turns head, and leaps up at his holder's throat.
There is a way of winning, more by love,
And urging of the modesty, than fear:
Force works on servile natures, not the free.
He that's compelled to goodness may be good;
But 'tis but for that fit; where others, drawn
By softness and example, get a habit.
Then, if they stray, but warn ‘em, and the same
They should for virtue have done, they'll do for shame.

Related Characters: Old Knowell (speaker), Edward Knowell
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

Nay, would ourselves were not the first, even parents,
That did destroy the hopes in our own children:
Or they not learned our vices in their cradles,
And sucked in our ill customs with their milk.
Ere all their teeth be born, or they can speak,
We make their palates cunning! the first words
We form their tongues with, are licentious jests!
Can it call, whore? cry bastard? O, then, kiss it!

Related Characters: Old Knowell (speaker), Edward Knowell
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Your cares are nothing: they are like my cap, soon put on, and as soon put off. What! your son is old enough to govern himself: let him run his course, it's the only way to make him staid man.

Related Characters: Justice Clement (speaker), Edward Knowell, Old Knowell
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

JUSTICE CLEMENT: Good complement! It will be their bridal night too. They are married anew. Come, I conjure the rest, to put off all discontent. You, master Downright, your anger; you, master Knowell, your cares; Master Kitely and his wife, their jealousy.

[…]

'Tis well, 'tis well! This night we'll dedicate to friendship, love, and laughter. Master bridegroom, take your bride and lead; everyone, a fellow. Here is my mistress, Brainworm! To whom all my addresses of courtship shall have their reference. Whose adventures, this day, when our grandchildren shall hear to be made a fable, I doubt not, but it shall find both spectators, and applause.

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Old Knowell Character Timeline in Every Man in His Humour

The timeline below shows where the character Old Knowell appears in Every Man in His Humour. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
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Parenthood Theme Icon
The play opens with Old Knowell at home. He asks Brainworm, his servant, to call for his son, Edward Knowell—but not... (full context)
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Parenthood Theme Icon
Master Stephen, Old Knowell’s dim-witted nephew from the countryside, comes in. Stephen asks if Edward Knowell has any books... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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Parenthood Theme Icon
A servant comes in with a letter for Edward. Old Knowell decides, as he too is called “Edward,” to read the letter and check up on... (full context)
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Old Knowell reads the letter, which is from Wellbred, a roguish London gallant. It invites Edward to... (full context)
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Knowell summons Brainworm back into the room. He gives his servant the letter to pass on... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
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Brainworm delivers the letter to Edward, immediately and deliberately informing him that Old Knowell has read its contents. Stephen comes in, still annoyed about the servant earlier. Edward reads... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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...Moorfields, Brainworm enters disguised as a vagrant ex-soldier. He announces his intentions to disrupt Old Knowell’s attempts to follow and spy on Edward. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
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Old Knowell arrives on the Moorfields and delivers a long speech about parenting. He vacillates between wanting... (full context)
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Brainworm reappears, still in disguise, and begs Old Knowell for money. He also claims his name is Fitzsword. Knowell tells him he should be... (full context)
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...delights in the effectiveness of his disguise. He plans to relay any information about Old Knowell to Edward. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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...Wellbred warmly and calling him a “fine gallant” for his letter. Edward explains that Old Knowell contrived to read Wellbred’s letter. Wellbred promises Edward that he will enjoy listening—and mocking—Bobadil and... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Brainworm unveils his disguise to Edward, informing him about Old Knowell’s attempts to follow him. He then tells Edward and Wellbred that Old Knowell is currently... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
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...for attacking Cob—the insult over tobacco—and instead orders Formal to send Cob to jail. Old Knowell, also present, implores Justice Clement to go easy on Cob. Justice Clement scorns Cob for... (full context)
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Evidently in a frivolous mood, Justice Clement tells Old Knowell that his worries about Edward are “nothing”; “Your son is old enough to govern himself,”... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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Roger Formal and Old Knowell meet in a street of the Old Jewry. Brainworm arrives too, still disguised as a... (full context)
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...that they are heading to Cob’s house—where Edward has his eye on “brave citizens’ wives.” Knowell instructs Brainworm to stay with Roger Formal and leaves. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 10
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Old Knowell arrives at Cob’s house. He asks Tib who is within the house; not knowing who... (full context)
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Kitely, caught up in his own suspicions, thinks Dame Kitely’s secret lover is Old Knowell, “this hoary-headed lecher.” They angrily accuse one another. Old Knowell sense that a trick has... (full context)
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Cob enters, shocked to hear Kitely’s claims that Old Knowell has cuckolded him (Kitely) within Cob’s house. He beats Tib for being a “bawd.” Old... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Justice Clement, Knowell, Kitely, Dame Kitely, Cash, Tib, and Cob assemble at Justice Clement’s house. Clement is trying... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Downright, Brainworm, and Stephen enter. Old Knowell explains that Stephen is his nephew. Stephen says he has been falsely accused by Downright... (full context)
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Brainworm protests, throwing off his disguise. Old Knowell is shocked to see his servant; he is annoyed and says he suspects Brainworm “for... (full context)