Every Man in His Humour

by Ben Jonson

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"As Sure As Death"

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Context: In the title Every Man in his Humour, the word humour means whim or quirk of behavior; consequently, the play is filled with characters who consistently pursue courses of action in accordance with their ruling follies. Some of the characters are Old Knowell, who has the confidence of action produced by the belief that he knows everything; Edward Knowell, his son, around whom most of the action centers; Brainworm, a mad, rascally servant who is a prime mover of the action; Master Stephen, a loutish country cousin of Edward Knowell who has the humour to be a city dandy; Master Matthew, a city gull, or fool, who wishes to be a gentleman poet; Captain Bobadill, a braggart soldier who is at heart a coward; Wellborn, a city sophisticate, companion of Edward Knowell; Kitely, a cowardly merchant; and Squire Downright, a forthright and plain-speaking, no-nonsense fellow. In Act I, scene i of the play, Kitely is complaining to Downright of the way in which his lodger, Wellborn, acts; he has turned Kitely's house into a tavern or a stews by introducing into it his ritous companions. They mock Kitely and say that he is jealous in his behavior because he has recently married a young and pretty wife and lodges her attractive sister in his house also–as sure as death they say it!

Whilst they, sir, to relieve him in the fable,
Make their loose comments upon every word,
Gesture, or look, I use; mock me all over,
From my flat cap unto my shining shoes;
And, out of their impetuous rioting phant'sies,
Beget some slander that shall dwell with me.
And what would that be, think you? marry, this:
They would give out, because my wife is fair,
Myself but lately married, and my sister
Here sojourning a virgin in my house,
That I am jealous!–nay, as sure as death,
That they would say: and how that I had quarelled
My brother purposely, thereby to find
An apt pretext to banish them my house.

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