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In Every Man in His Humour, Jonson's characters are consistent from their first...

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shewa55 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted January 16, 2013 at 1:46 AM via web

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In Every Man in His Humour, Jonson's characters are consistent from their first appearance to their last. They never develop in the course of the play in which they appear. Discuss.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 16, 2013 at 7:30 AM (Answer #1)

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Critics have commented on the way in which each character in this play by Jonson is used to demonstrate some form of human folly in an exaggerated sense, and that, in addition, the way in which all characters act and their fate in the play is determined by that folly. There is no evidence of characters learning or developing or increasing in self-awareness, and the frequent collisions of different forms of folly in this play do not help characters to learn from their mistakes or become better people. Thus this play diverges sharply from other Renaissance comedies, such as those of Shakespeare, in which there is normally a scene of revelation and discovery where disguises are uncovered and mistakes rectified. In this play, by contrast, in Act IV, in the scene that occurrs before Cob's house, characters are left believing in their own interpretation of events and the truth is not openly declared. Thus Knowell thinks Dame Kitely is Edward's mistress, Kitely goes away convinced that it is Knowell who is sleeping with his wife, and Knowell mistakes Kitely for Edward. Even though Justice Clement at the end of the play tries to encourage the characters to put aside malice and discord, it is clear that this is more wishful thinking than something the characters will take seriously:

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.

The various faults that Justice Clements identifies in each character are what has led them to their current position at the end of the play, and it is clear that they still remain just the same, folly-ridden individuals at the end of the play as they were presented to the audience as being at the beginning of the play.

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