Every Man in His Humour

Performance and publication

All the available evidence indicates that the play was performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1598 at the Curtain Theatre. That date is given in the play's reprint in Jonson's 1616 folio collection of his works; the text of the play (IV,iv,15) contains an allusion to John Barrose, a Burgundian fencer who challenged all comers that year and was hanged for murder on 10 July 1598. The play was also acted at Court on 2 February 1605.[1]

A theatre legend first recorded in 1709 by Nicholas Rowe has it that Shakespeare advocated production of the play at a point when the company was about to reject it. While this legend is unverifiable, it is all but certain, based on the playlist published in the folio, that Shakespeare played the part of Kno'well.

The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers' Company on 4 August 1600, along with the Shakespearean plays As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Henry V, in an entry marked "to be stayed." It is thought that this entry was an attempt to block publication of the four plays; if so, the attempt failed, since the latter three plays appeared in print soon after. Every Man In was re-registered ten days later, on 14 August 1600, by the booksellers Cuthbert Burby and Walter Burre; the first quarto was published in 1601, with Burre's name on the title page. In the 1601 Quarto version, the play was set in Florence, Italy. The play was next printed in Jonson's 1616 folio, with the setting being moved to London [2]

The play's contemporary popularity is attested by such quick publication; although there are few records of performance, it presumably stayed in the King's Men's repertory until the theatres closed in 1642.

Gerard Langbaine reports that the play was revived by the King's Company in 1675. The play remained vivid enough in memory for John Rich to revive it at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1725. However, it was not until David Garrick revived the play with substantial alterations in 1751 that the play regained currency on the English stage. Garrick's revisions served to focus attention on Kitely's jealousy; he both trimmed lines from the other plots and added a scene in which he attempts to elicit information from Cob while hiding his jealousy. The scene was a favorite, praised by Arthur Murphy and others; Kitely became one of Garrick's signature roles, and the play was never long out of his repertory.

The play declined in popularity in the last quarter of the century, in large part because it was seen as a Garrick vehicle. George Frederick Cooke revived the play at Covent Garden. Elizabeth Inchbald lauded the performance, calling Cooke's Kitely the equal of Garrick's. Cooke had mixed success with the play, though; it failed in Edinburgh in 1808. After 1803, Cooke may have alternated with Kemble in the title role for productions at Covent Garden.

Thereafter, the play has been subject to tentative revivals, none of which have established it as viable for modern repertory. Edmund Kean played Kitely in an unsuccessful 1816 production; his performance was praised by William Hazlitt. William Charles Macready essayed the role at the Haymarket Theatre in 1838; Robert Browning attended and approved the performance, but the play did not figure prominently in Macready's repertory.

Perhaps the most unusual revival occurred in 1845, when Charles Dickens and his friends mounted a benefit production. Aided by Macready, Dickens took the faintly Dickensian role of Bobadill; George Cruikshank was Cob; John Forster played Kitely. The production went off well enough to be repeated three or four times over the next two years. Bulwer-Lytton wrote a poem as prologue for an 1847 production; in addition to Browning, Tennyson and John Payne Collier attended.

Ben Iden Payne produced the play in Manchester in 1909, and again in Stratford for the Jonson tercentenary in 1937. The later production received much more favourable reviews.

John Caird directed the play during the inaugural season of the Swan Theatre in 1986.


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