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In the Prologue to his Every Man in His Humour, Ben Jonson claims that his play will...

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shewa55 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM via web

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In the Prologue to his Every Man in His Humour, Ben Jonson claims that his play will not violate the three unities. Does he observe the Aristotelian unities?

Analyze the play in light of his claim.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:07 PM (Answer #1)

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Jonson definitely understood Aristotle’s rules of the unity of time, place, and action (but candidly prescribed for tragedy, not necessarily for comedy), but it is a stretch to say that he followed them in this, his early and possibly most famous “humour” play.  For place, it could be argued that London is the setting, but “Knowell’s house”, “Cob’s house”, "The Old Jewry" (Act II), "Windmill Tavern", "Kitely’s Warehouse”—even with a mobile stage, this variety of locations stretches the meaning of “unity of place”; as for unity of time (limited to one day) there is too much evidence of many days (breakfast in Act II, for instance) to argue that unity.  And finally, the cast of characters demands quite a deviation from the Knowell father-and-son conflict that is the main action:  Kitely, Bobadill, Brainwell, etc.  Jonson was more interested in his comic portrayal of the Humours than a simple adherence to classical principles,  although he was definitely a learned part of the dramatic Renaissance.

 

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