Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285
Wilmot goes out of his way to show that humans are not as great as they think they are. Here are a few examples.
For wits are treated just like common whores:
First they're enjoyed, and then kicked out of doors.
Wits were popular in their day; they were intelligent and verbally clever men and women who could make witty and/or outrageous statements that would end up in the next's day's penny newspapers or broadsheets. They were, in other words, early versions of celebrities. Wilmot says they use their minds to please other people with their words, and in spite of their intelligence, they are fools for doing so. Like today's celebrities and their "fifteen minutes of fame," they are loved one moment and despised the next.
Which is the basest creature, man or beast?
Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey,
But savage man alone does man betray.
Wilmot, of course, answers the question with the answer "man." Animals, he notes, use violence because they need to eat, don't prey on their own species, and use the weapons they were born with, such as claws and fangs. Humans, however, pretend to be kind towards their fellow humans but turn on them violently, not out of need, but from "wantonness."
The difference lies, as far as I can see,
Not in the thing itself, but the degree
Wilmot says the question is not whether or not men are cowards and knaves (dishonest and wicked), but how cowardly or wicked. Which men are cowards and knaves of the "first degree"? In other words, who are the worst cowards and knaves? Wilmot again humorously shows that he doesn't have too much faith in humanity.
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