Every Man in His Humour

by

Ben Jonson

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Every Man in His Humour: Prologue Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The prologue is spoken anonymously—there is no character assigned—but it can be taken as an expression of Ben Jonson’s own thoughts. It gives a brief overview of the English theater scene at the time, referencing Shakespeare. It also makes mention of the lineage of theater, gesturing towards Greek theater with its mention of the “Chorus”—of which, in this play, there will be none.
The prologue functions as a kind of mission statement, with Jonson differentiating his play from that of the styles and trends of his contemporaries. It’s also intended to gesture towards his deep knowledge of Elizabethan theatrical scene.
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The prologue sets out Jonson’s approach, promising to employ “deeds, and language, such as men do use: / And persons, such as Comedy would choose, / When she would show an image of the times, / And sport with human follies, not with crimes.” It invites the audience to laugh at “our popular errors;” if they do, it promises, there’s “hope” left.
Jonson, then, aims to give an authentic account of the times. He sees this as a redemptive act, exposing human folly so that it can be come to terms with.
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