Every Man in His Humour "In Black And White"

Ben Jonson

"In Black And White"

Context: At a general gathering of most of the characters of the play at the home of Kitely, a cowardly and jealous husband, Oliver Cob, a water-drawer, falls foul of the braggart soldier, Captain Bobadill, who bitterly resents Cob's derogatory remarks about the smoking of tobacco. So incensed is Bobadill that he roundly beats Cob with a cudgel. Cob repairs to the home of a mad wag of a judge, Justice Clement, to obtain a writ to bind Bobadill to keep the peace. When Justice Clement learns that the quarrel arose over Cob's finding fault with tobacco smoking, he summarily sentences Cob to jail. Cob is horribly frightened, but Justice Clement reprieves him and orders his clerk, Roger Formal, to make out the warrant. Cob returns to his house and tells his wife Tib that Bobadill will pay for the black and blue he administered in the beating, as he has the warrant in his hand, in black and white. Cob admits that the justice put him in great fear for his liberty; he is a fine old fellow, though. Cob then orders his wife to go into the house, lock the door, and admit no one, especially Bobadill:

Why, what's the matter, trow!
O, he has basted me rarely, sumptuously! but I have it here in black and white, for his black and blue shall pay him. O, the justice! the honestest old brave Trojan in London! I do honor the very flea of his dog. A plague on him though, he put me once in a villainous filthy fear; marry, it vanished away like the smoke of tobacco; but I was smoked soundly first. I thank the devil, and his good angel, my guest. Well, wife, or Tib, which you will, get you in, and lock the door, I charge you let no body in to you, wife; no body in to you; those are my words; not Captain Bob himself, nor the fiend in his likeness. You are a woman, you have flesh and blood enough in you to be tempted; therefore keep the door shut upon all comers.