Every Man in His Humour


Ben Jonson

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Every Man in His Humour Themes

Themes and Colors
Language Theme Icon
Human Folly Theme Icon
Authenticity Theme Icon
Parenthood Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Every Man in His Humour, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Every Man in his Humour, arguably Ben Jonson’s most famous play, is ironically one of his works for the stage in which the least action actually takes place. The plot is tenuous and disorientating to a modern reader, with disparate parts and an artificial wrapping-up in the conclusion. To focus too intently on this aspect of the play, though, would be to mischaracterize Jonson’s intentions and to miss what makes it still worth reading…

read analysis of Language

Human Folly

Hardly anyone in Every Man in his Humour comes across well. Jonson was interested in displaying human folly on stage—celebrating it, even—and made sure to fill this play to the brim with strange behavior, crossed purposes, and satire. In fact, the play established the “comedy of the humours” genre on the English scene, and is imbued with an absurdist wit throughout that seems to show humanity at its most foolish. Jonson focuses on human…

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Every Man in his Humour examines what it means to be authentic. Some of the characters try to occupy particular roles, arrogantly performing what they think is expected of them. Like many of the other personality traits on display, Jonson takes great pleasure in showing these up as a sham. Likewise, the playwright employs disguise and deception to suggest that identity—specifically, how people like to see themselves—is inherently unstable and unreliable. That is, there is…

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The theme of parenthood appears in the play through the relationship between Old Knowell and his young, aspiring gallant of a son, Edward Knowell. It is, by and large, a tension that takes hold because of generational differences. Old Knowell sees himself in his son, but also, being older, thinks he knows better. This creates the starting point for the play and reoccurs sporadically throughout. Through their father-son relationship, Jonson brings to life the…

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