Every Man in His Humour

History

Critics of the nineteenth century tended to credit Jonson with the introduction of "humour" comedy into English literature. It is now well known, not only that George Chapman's An Humorous Day's Mirth preceded Jonson's play by a year or more, but that Jonson himself was not especially intrigued by the trope of "humours." Since only Kitely is dominated by a "humour" as Jonson defined it in Every Man Out of His Humour, it seems more likely that Jonson was using a contemporary taste aroused by Chapman to draw interest to his play, which became his first indisputable hit.

Jonson revised the play for the 1616 folio, where it was the first play presented. The most significant change was in the location. The 1598 edition was set in a vaguely identified Florence. Even in the original version, the background details were English; the revision formalizes this fact by giving the characters English names and replacing the vaguely English details with specific references to London places.

The folio also gives a cast list for the original 1598 production. After Shakespeare, the main players are given in the following order: Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillips, John Heminges, Henry Condell, Thomas Pope, William Sly, Christopher Beeston, William Kempe, and John Duke. (Kempe would leave the company the next year, for his famous morris dance from London to Norwich.)

In 1599, Jonson wrote what would prove to be a much less popular sequel, Every Man out of His Humour.

The play was revived around 1670; Sackville provided a verse epilogue in which Jonson himself appeared as a ghost. David Garrick brought a revised version to the stage in 1751; the changes he made served chiefly to focus attention on the part of Kitely, which he played. The largest change was an entirely new scene featuring only Kitely and his wife, in which Kitely attempts to hide his jealousy. The production featured a prologue by William Whitehead and proved popular enough for many revivals. However, as critics near the end of the eighteenth century noted, the play's popularity arose more from Garrick than from Jonson; the play fell from regular use, with the rest of Jonson's comedies, by the beginning of the nineteenth century.


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