EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOR
A monologue from Act II, Scene v
by: Ben Jonson
|NOTE: Every Man in His Humor was entered in the Stationers' Register on August 4, 1600. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.
- KNOWELL: I cannot lose the thought yet of this letter
- Sent to my son; nor leave t' admire the change
- Of manners and the breeding of our youth
- Within the kingdom, since myself was one.
- When I was young, he lived not in the stews
- Durst have conceived a scorn and uttered it
- On a gray head; age was authority
- Against a buffon , and a man had then
- A certain reverence paid unto his years,
- That had none due unto his life. So much
- The sanctity of some prevailed for others.
- But now we all are fall'n, youth from their fear,
- And age from that which bred it, good example.
- Nay, would ourselves were not the first even parents
- That did destroy the hopes in our own children,
- Or they not learned our vices in their cradles,
- And sucked in our ill customs with their milk!
- Ere all their teeth be born, or they can speak,
- We make their palates cunning; the first words
- We form their tongues with are licentious jests!
- Can it call "whore"? Cry "bastard"? O, then kiss it!
- A witty child! Can't swear? The father's a dearling! 
- Give it two plums. Nay, rather than 't shall learn
- No bawdy song, the mother herself will teach it!
- But this is in the infancy, the days
- Of the long coat; when it puts on the breeches,
- It will put off all this. Ay, it is like,
- When it is gone into the bone already!
- No, no; this dye goes deeper than the coat,
- Or shirt, or skin; it stains unto the liver 
- And heart  in some. And, rather than it should not,
- Note what we fathers do! Look how we live,
- What mistresses we keep, at what expense!
- In our sons' eyes, where they may handle our gifts,
- Hear our lascivious courtships, see our dalliance,
- Taste of the same provoking meats with us,
- To ruin our states! Nay, when our own
- Portion  is fled, to prey on their remainder ,
- We call them into fellowship of vice;
- Bait them with the young chambermaid to seal,
- And teach them all bad ways to buy affiction .
- This is one path; but there are millions more,
- In which we spoil our own with leading them.
- Well, I thank heaven, I never yet was he
- That traveled with my son, before sixteen,
- To show him the Venetian courtesans;
- Nor read the grammar of cheating I had made,
- To my sharp boy, at twelve, repeating still
- The rule, "Get money;" still, "Get money, boy,
- No matter by what means; money will do
- More, boy, than my lord's letter." Neither have I
- Dressed snails or mushrooms curiously before him,
- Perfumed my sauces, and taught him to make hem;
- Preceding still, with my gray gluttony,
- At all the ordinaries, and only feared
- His palate should degenerate, not his manners.
- These are the trade of fathers now; however,
- My son, I hope, hath met within my threshold
- None of these household precedents, which are strong
- And swift to rape youth to their precipice .
- But let the house at home be ne'er so clean-
- Swept, or kept sweet from filth, nay, dust and cobwebs,
- If he will live abroad with his companions
- In dung and leystalls , it is worth a fear;
- Nor is the danger of conversing less
- Than all that I have mentioned of example.
3 Seat of the passions.
4 Seat of knowledge.
6 Affliction, from Lat. afficio.
7 Carry youth off to their downfall.
8 Laystalls, rubbish heaps.