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  • Title: An Humorous Day's Mirth: Critical Introduction
  • Author: Eleanor Lowe

  • Copyright Digital Renaissance Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Eleanor Lowe
    Peer Reviewed

    Critical Introduction

    1George Chapman (1559-1634): 'The best for Comedy'

    George Chapman In a quiet corner of a once marshy and disreputable corner of London, in St Giles-in-the-Fields church, a monument stands to ‘Georgius Chapman, poeta’. Originally positioned in the yard on the south side of the church with the inscription ‘Georgius Chapmanius, poeta Homericus, Philosophus verus (etsi Christianus poeta)’ it was later brought inside the church where it stands today, with a new inscription cut under direction by the then Rector. Created by Inigo Jones after Chapman’s death on 12 May 1634, the once magnificent but now weathered and scarcely legible tribute stands to the man who contributed translations of Homer, poems, comedies and tragedies to the growing body of Renaissance literature. Yet the material which inspired Keats to write his well-known sonnet and prompted T. S. Eliot to plan an unwritten essay received mixed reception, both during Chapman’s life and in more recent critical discussion.

    Wealth evaded Chapman, causing financial trouble in the form of loans and lawsuits, but also prompting the creation of dramatic triumphs. It has been suggested that were it not for Chapman’s desire to work on his translations and the need to fund this endeavour, the rich literary treasures of his plays, in particular his comedies, might not have been manifested on paper or transmitted into print. The Blind Beggar of Alexandria and An Humorous Day’s Mirth in particular provided Philip Henslowe with box-office hits, and payment for Chapman.

    Indeed, despite publishing his first known work The Shadow of Night in 1594 at the advanced age of thirty-four, it was only four years later that Chapman’s labours received praise from Francis Meres. In 1598, Meres’s Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury was printed, listing Chapman as one of ‘the best for Comedy amongst us’ along with Lyly, Greene, Shakespeare, Nashe, Heywood and Chettle.[1] Chapman is also listed among the best for tragedy, along with Marlowe, Shakespeare and Jonson, although none of these early tragedies have survived.

    Basic facts concerning Chapman’s life are few. A description of Hitchin, Hertfordshire as his ‘native air’ in the ‘Inductio’ to The Tears of Peace identifies George’s birthplace, where he was born as second son to Thomas and Joan Chapman. An engraving featured in The Whole Works of Homer depicts a bearded man and enables an estimation of his birth year: the encircling inscription states that Chapman was fifty-seven in the year 1616, thus estimating his year of birth as 1559.

    5Despite Anthony Wood’s assertion that Chapman went up to Oxford, no other confirmatory record has been found to support this. Jean Robertson cites Phyllis Brooks Bartlett’s point that ‘If he had studied the ancient tongues at Oxford, surely he would never have boasted that he was self-taught’, which he does in the Epilogue to the Hymns of Homer.[2] Unlike Shakespeare, Chapman had a plentiful knowledge of Latin and Greek, as his translations surely testify. Upon the death of their father, Thomas, the elder son, inherited the house and land, while George received one hundred pounds and two silver spoons. As two significant lawsuits illustrate, pecuniary need was to plague Chapman for much of his life.

    An inscription found in a copy of Batrachomyomachia asserts that Chapman’s ‘youth was initiate’ in the house of ‘Ralph Sadler Esquire’.[3] A Chancery case filed in 1608 provides extra information concerning these years. It alleges that Chapman borrowed a sum of money from the convicted fraudster John Wolfall, the bond of which was dated 12 July 1585.[4] This detail is confirmed in Chapman’s 1608 bill of complaint against John Wolfall the younger, in which he explains the reason for the loan: ‘then having occasion to use a sum of money to furnish himself ... fit for his proper use in attendance upon the then Right Honourable Sir Ralph Sadler Knight’.[5] Chapman estimates that the bond was made roughly twenty-five years before, i.e. 1583, in order to serve Ralph Sadler. Sadler’s properties included Standon Hall, Hertfordshire, Duchy House in the Strand, London, as well as a manor house in the Hundred of Hitchin at Temple Dinsley. Although Sadler died in 1587, Chapman may have continued his service to the Sadler family beyond this date.

    Two years later, in 1589, Chapman’s father died, leaving him the aforementioned money and spoons. It may have been this money which aided him to travel overseas, occupying some of the unknown years between service for Sadler and his first publication, The Shadow of Night, in 1594. The Chancery case also provides information volunteered by Wolfall the younger that his father had not pursued the bond due to ‘the absence of the saide complainant by yonde the seas’.[6]] This supports any suggestion that Chapman had spent some time abroad, time enough to prevent the elder Wolfall from collecting his bond. Chapman was active as a published poet and playwright in London from 1594 until 1600, when he was arrested for debt by Wolfall.[7]

    It therefore makes sense to suggest, as Eccles has done, that Chapman’s period abroad occurred between the end of his service with Ralph Sadler and his poetic activity in London. As we cannot be sure when Chapman’s attendance upon the Sadlers ceased, despite knowing him to be in service in circa 1585, this must be the earliest date conjectured for his travels. It is more likely, or at least possible, that Chapman remained in Sadler’s service until the latter’s death in 1587. Robertson further claims that Chapman was likely to have been in England at the time his father’s will was proved on 5 June 1589.

    A further, more specific suggestion regarding Chapman’s activity abroad is based upon evidence in Hymnus in Cynthiam in The Shadow of Night.[8] It is suggested that Chapman served as a soldier during campaigns in the Low Countries, as did Ben Jonson, and in particular was present at Sir Francis Vere’s ambush of Spanish troops at Nymeghen. The date of this exploit was 24 July 1591, thus falling within the estimated window of dates when Chapman is likely to have been on the Continent. Jonathan Hudston also suggests that further evidence of Chapman’s military service is to be found in the dedicatory letter to the Crowne of all Homers Workes which describes ‘an episode at Ghent in 1582’.[9]

    10Eccles alternatively proposes that Chapman could have spent time in France, a popular destination for Elizabethan travellers. He points to the fact that ‘Chapman showed his special interest in France by choosing the subjects for five of his six surviving tragedies from French history’ (p. 190), not to mention An Humorous Day’s Mirth, which was set in Paris. This is not necessarily an indication of Chapman’s experience as a traveller, since, as Eccles also points out, it is known that Chapman had access to Edward Grimestone’s translation of Jean de Serre’s Inventaire Général de l’Histoire de France (1607).[10] Robertson notes the commendatory poem written for Grimestone by Chapman which describes the former as ‘his long-lov’d and worthy friend’, and Eccles remarks that Chapman’s grandmother, Margaret Grimston née Nodes, was of the same family as the beloved historian.

    If Chapman was driven to writing plays as a means of supporting his translation work his efforts paid off. However, John Wolfall commented of Chapman: ‘at the first being a man of very good parts and expectation hath sithence very unadvisedly spent the most part of his time and his estate in fruitless and vain poetry’.[11] Contrary to Wolfall’s remarks, Chapman’s first two extant comedies at the Rose theatre, The Blind Beggar of Alexandria and An Humorous Day’s Mirth, were financial successes for Henslowe, suggesting popularity among audiences. However, among payments noted in Henslowe’s accounts for Chapman’s plays, some of which are now lost, are three records without statement of their purpose. This suggests that they might be loans, helping to buoy up a second son whose inheritance had long been spent. The first payment, or loan, is recorded on 10 June 1598 for 10s; the second is the same sum paid by Robert Shaa on 1 November of the same year. A third sum of £10 10s is named in a debt signed by Chapman.[12] Despite the success of his comedies, it would seem that perhaps George was in greater financial need than these earnings provided.

    This may have persuaded the Chapman brothers to sell their contested interest in a family property for 120 pounds in 1599, the year the play was printed as An Humorous Day’s Mirth by Valentine Simmes. Financial issues were particularly pressing at this time, since the following year George’s debt to Wolfall again surfaced, resulting in his imprisonment in the Counter at Wood Street.[13]

    The following year of 1601 delivered a further blow to Chapman’s fortunes with the execution of his patron, the Earl of Essex, for participation in a revolt against Elizabeth I. Chapman had written dedications to Essex in Seaven Bookes Of The Iliades, a translation of Homer, and in Achilles Shield, both published in 1598. He was appointed as sewer-in-ordinary to Prince Henry in 1604, who quickly became an eager patron and promised Chapman patronage and a pension; neither of these promises was fulfilled when the Prince died aged eighteen in November 1612.

    Dedicating his Epicede on the death of the Prince to Henry Jones also failed to secure Chapman favour. In fact, Jones had been funding Chapman for two years, amassing a total debt of over one hundred pounds by 1612 when Jones decided to leave for Ireland. At this point he wished to settle the debt, drawing up a bond with George’s brother Thomas as guarantor. The dedication in the Epicede could thus be viewed as the attempted flattery of a man to whom Chapman owed a large quantity of money, or as an attempt to secure patronage which was subsequently blighted by Jones’s departure. C. J. Sisson has also suggested that ‘the dedication may have been bought and paid for, in order to give Henry Jones a public place among the patrons of a notable writer of the time’.[14] Despite attempts by Henry’s brother Peter to reclaim the money, judgement favoured Chapman, and relieved him of the debt’s burden on 8 February 1622.[15]

    15As with the Wolfall suit, the records concerning the Jones case yield further interesting points of information regarding Chapman’s character and activity at this time. While Henry’s younger brother, Roger Jones, protested that ‘whether he [Chapman] may be termed a Poet or not this deponent ... doth not know’, Henry himself described Chapman as ‘a pleasant witty fellow, and one whom this deponent delighted and loved’.[16]

    In 1615, Peter Jones, brother to Henry, began legal proceedings with the help of his lawyer, Richard Holman, ‘against the defendant Thomas Chapman the other defendant absenting himself whereby process could not be served upon him’.[17] Thomas, as guarantor, had been called to answer the debt, since George had left London out of fear of being imprisoned again.[18] Despite George’s sudden reappearance on 12 June 1617 to appeal to the Court of Chancery for time to gather evidence, both Holman and Roger Jones agreed that the younger Chapman brother was ‘of mean or poor estate’ and ‘doth now live in remote places and is hard to be found’.[19] Butman suggests that since Chapman was unavailable for the majority of the court case’s duration and absent from London, a point supported by a lack of extant records of drama performed or published, he may have been in hiding at his brother’s inherited house in Hitchin. The dates Butman suggests include autumn 1614 until autumn 1619, save for the 1617 court appearance already mentioned, during which time ‘the only works published by Chapman ... were translations from Musaeus and Hesiod, and the completed Works of Homer’.[20]

    Before this suggested exile, Chapman had further courted controversy and unwelcome attention for celebrating the marriage of a badly chosen, but faithfully supported, patron, the Earl of Somerset. The latter began an affair with the Countess of Essex, Frances Devereux, née Howard, who consequently requested a divorce from her husband, citing his impotency as her reason. Chapman’s Andromeda Liberata (1614), written to celebrate this marriage, only served to slander the Earl of Essex, who was generally interpreted as being the ‘rock’ in the poem, from whom Andromeda, or the Countess (by way of a protracted court case), was freed. As a result, Chapman was forced to publish a Justification of the poem, discrediting its malicious interpretations. Despite this furore, Chapman dedicated his Odysses to Somerset the following year.

    Chapman’s ‘Invective ... against Mr Ben Jonson’ is of uncertain date but must have been written after Jonson’s desk was destroyed by fire in 1623, to which incident Chapman makes reference. Bartlett suggests that Chapman may have been taking sides in a significant literary and dramatic controversy between Inigo Jones and Jonson, which culminated in Jonson ceasing to write further court masques for Jones after a quarrel in 1631. Bartlett notes that the argument ‘had been brewing for some time before’, and suggests that Jonson’s criticisms of Chapman’s Whole Works of Homer (1616) might have led to the degeneration of their friendship, and thus, Chapman’s affiliation with Jones.[21] Certainly, in 1618, Drummond of Hawthornden notes Jonson’s venomous dislike of Jones, whilst proclaiming affection for Chapman and praise for his masques.[22]

    Little is known of Chapman’s later years, apart from his death one May day, recorded by his faithful dedicator, Inigo Jones, who was honoured in The Divine Poem of Musaeus (1616). John Davies of Hereford accurately summarised Chapman’s fortunes in a poem dedicated to the ‘Father of our English Poets’:[23]

    But in thy hand too little coin doth lie;
    For of all arts that now in London are,
    Poets get least in uttering of their ware.

    20‘Like an old king in an old-fashion play’: Comedy’s Inheritance

    Announcing his intention to ‘point out all my humorous companions’ [TLN 50-51], Lemot refers back to drama’s rich inheritance as he looks forward to the day’s mirth. Quoting from Preston’s successful play Cambyses, King of Persia, Lemot assumes royal authority, just as Chapman calls to mind a dramatic authority that reaches far beyond the mid-sixteenth century. After the popularity of Marlovian heroic tragedy diminished, ‘Theatrical taste was on the turn’, bringing with it a renewed appetite for comedy.[24] Fledgling dramatists George Chapman and Ben Jonson recognized the potential of Latin comedy to be reinvented, even combining two plots for maximum dramatic complexity. Jonson’s first surviving play, The Case Is Altered (1597, revised 1601), borrows Plautus’ plots of Aulularia and Captivi, while Chapman’s later All Fools (1604) is based on Terence’s Heautontimorumenos and Adelphi.

    The principal concepts of Roman New Comedy, preserved in Plautus and Terence, filtered down to the Renaissance in essays by Evanthius, Donatus and Diomedes. Their writings can be summarized thus: comedy deals with the private lives of ordinary men without threat of serious violence, danger or death, is often concerned with love, and ends in happy resolution. It therefore differs in diametrically opposed terms from tragedy, which is said to concern public political figures, whose ends are unfortunate. Thomas Heywood provides a classification of genre in his Apology for Actors (1612): ‘Comedies begin in trouble, and end in peace; tragedies begin in calms, and end in tempest’ (B3, sig F1v). An Humorous Day’s Mirth more accurately begins with trouble in the guise of Lemot.

    However, Chapman’s play challenges several of the assumptions commonly held about comedy, based on the ‘rules’ laid down by the three essayists mentioned above. Although An Humorous Day’s Mirth is concerned primarily with private rather than political events, the characters involved are not all ‘ordinary’: many of the characters are lords or counts, and even the king and queen appear as persons of the play. The ordinariness of this play lies in the subject matter: love, marital fidelity, mental and physical health, eating out and having a good time. The threat of violence is very real to the queen, who is convinced that her husband’s penis, what Lemot misleadingly refers to as the ‘instrument of procreation’ [TLN 1629], is about to be removed. The threat affects not only the royal couple, but also the succession and thus the entire country. The threat is diffused within the safe boundaries of mirthful comedy. The quick-thinking Lemot explains he was referring to Martia, for ‘is not she the instrument of procreation, as all women are?’ [TLN 1738].

    While An Humorous Day’s Mirth is concerned with love, as the definition of comedy dictates, it is principally the love of marital relationships, and predominantly manifests itself as a preoccupation with sex. Wiggins lists sexual content as a novel aspect of An Humorous Day’s Mirth, first introduced in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, but developed in Chapman’s next play and further explored in comedy over the next few years. However, study of jigs dating from the late 1580s and early 1590s suggests that this was not such an unknown phenomenon before 1597. Baskervill’s Elizabethan Jig and Related Song Drama contains jigs whose plots revolve around adultery with neighbours and apprentices. ‘Rowland’s Godson’ features a wife who has secretly been having sex with the apprentice, and manages to engineer a situation in which her husband, disguised in her clothes, goes to meet the supposedly amorous apprentice to beat him, only to be thwarted by his servant’s apparent chastity.[25] Of course, the wife has briefed the apprentice in advance, and the husband is therefore reassured of having a faithful wife and servant.

    The wife in ‘Singing Simpkin’ is nearly caught with not one but two lovers in her house.[26] When the wife’s lover, Bluster, knocks at the door, the other lover, Simpkin, is hidden in a chest. When the wife’s old husband arrives, Bluster feigns a search for an enemy, and, when he leaves, Simpkin is then able to crawl from his hiding place as the nice man chased by Bluster. The old husband cautions Bluster not to frighten his wife since she is pregnant. From within his chest, Simpkin poses an apt question to the audience: ‘But know you who the father is?’ (l. 115). The evidence from these jigs suggests that instead of Chapman doing something completely new, he was utilizing a lower form of comedy in drama. So comic drama did feature sexual content before 1597, but in jig, rather than play, format.

    25The anxieties and weaknesses of Labervele and Florila, the Countess and Moren, and the King and Queen, chiefly occupy Lemot’s intrigue. The union of a young couple, Dowsecer and Martia, is achieved almost by accident through the paternal concern of Labervele, and is less consciously Lemot’s plot concern than Chapman’s. There is a superficial happiness at the end of the play, principally forced by the King’s forgiving speech with its promises of conviviality and unity.

    The ‘comedy of umers’

    Although it is now generally accepted that Henslowe’s record of a box office hit called the ‘comedy of umers’ is Chapman’s printed play, An Humorous Day’s Mirth, it is less widely accepted that Chapman was the instigator of the genre entitled ‘comedy of humours’. Despite a steady voice amongst Chapman scholars attributing him with the creation of the first play of this type, Chapman is often accredited with little more than putting the idea in Jonson’s head, and producing work with much room for improvement. Baskervill points out that although in simplistic terms either of the aforementioned playwrights might be credited with inventing the comedy of humours genre, really the development sprang from numerous sources of dramatic and medical literature.[27] As far back as 1567 Baskervill finds extensive use of the word ‘humour’ in Geffraie Fenton’s translation of Bandello as Certain Tragical Discourses (1567).[28]

    The Four HumoursIn the Elizabethan period, the order and machinations of the earthly world received scholarly and theological scrutiny based on ancient and medieval studies. The pyramidal ordering of the created universe placed God at its apex, his authority filtering through the monarch, as head of created society, to the lords, gentry and the lower classes. Extensive study of astronomy and astrology charted the impact of the universe on men’s lives, in the correct timings for the planting of vegetables and herbs, government by the seasons and the cyclical pattern of the moon’s orbit. Study was also made of the organization and operation of the body, and it is here that humoural theory was employed.

    In the Induction to Every Man out of His Humour, Asper describes ‘humour’ thus:

    Why, humour (as ’tis, ens) we thus define it
    To be a quality of air or water,
    And in itself holds these two properties:
    Moisture and fluxure.
    (Induction, ll. 86-89, Revels edition)

    Thus, humour was a constantly flowing bodily fluid. Galen’s theory of humours describes four bodily fluids: black bile, yellow bile or choler, blood and phlegm. These humours were not equally present within the body, but existed in specific proportions, blood being the predominant. If one humour was present to a greater or lesser degree than the perfect balance, imbalance would present itself in a temperamental manifestation, rendering the person melancholic, choleric, sanguine or phlegmatic, thus lucidly described by Asper:

    As when some one peculiar quality
    Doth so possess a man that it doth draw
    All his affects, his spirits, and his powers
    In their confluxions all to run one way:
    This may truly said to be a humour.
    (Induction, ll. 103-07, Revels edition)

    30Thus humoural theory was a physiological and psychological explanation for a person’s temperament, also called ‘humour’. Usage of the word increased throughout the second half of the sixteenth century.

    Chapman had experimented with humoural differences when writing The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1596), the doctored text of which exists in a quarto dated 1598, which strips down the romance plot, preserving mainly the comic interludes. The title page boasts that the blind beggar in question, known as Irus, will be ‘most pleasantly discoursing his variable humours in disguised shapes full of conceit and pleasure’. Chapman used the stock plot ingredient of disguise to explore duplicity, aided by humoural traits. Irus plays not only the part of the blind beggar, but also three other characters: Count Hermes, Duke Cleanthes, and Leon the usurer. Chapman made use of garments and humoural disposition to distinguish between the characters played by Irus. Long before Nym was proudly using the new catchword ‘humours’ in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597-8), Bragadino in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria was doing exactly the same thing.

    Overt use of humours in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria has led Robert S. Miola to call it Chapman’s trend-setting humours play.[29] However, while Chapman indeed uses humoural temperament as an accessory to characterisation, sketches stressing a character’s vice of folly were already popular in the work of Nashe and Lyly.[30] Chapman’s innovation in An Humorous Day’s Mirth was to increase the emphasis on temperament in characterisation, and use this as the basis of the entire plot. Lemot announces ‘this day let’s consecrate to mirth’ (2.59) and the resulting action pivots on ‘the underlying premise that people are in themselves funny enough to sustain a comic action’.[31] Chapman does not rely heavily on the medical or theoretical aspects of humours, preferring instead to focus on temperamental differences. Shakespeare, and, to a greater extent, Jonson, were innovators of the new comedy, including references to medicinal humoural theory to increase comic characterisation. In a paper entitled ‘Shakespeare’s Comedy of Humors’, Northrop Frye begins: ‘The phrase “comedy of humors” belongs to Ben Jonson, so that a paper with such a title has to begin with the relation of Jonson’s comedy to Shakespeare’s.’[32] This introduction argues that since the phrase rightly ‘belongs’ to George Chapman, any discussion of Ben Jonson’s humoural drama should begin with the former playwright.

    Chronologically, Chapman precedes Jonson by experimenting with humours in The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, performed in 1596. At a similar time as Chapman offered An Humorous Day’s Mirth to the Admiral’s Men, Jonson is thought to have produced The Case Is Altered for Pembroke’s Men.[33] The repetitious catchphrase for the latter play provides its title, and the alteration of characters’ states perhaps fed Jonson’s more brutal idea for Every Man out of His Humour‘s systematic purgation of humours. Jonson’s well-known response to Chapman’s invention, Every Man in His Humour (1598), was probably not the first, nor can The Case Is Altered pose any claim as first humours play.

    The text of Jonson’s first surviving comedy, The Case is Altered, was not printed until 1609 and bears evidence of revision, which is thought to have occurred in 1601. This revision principally involves the addition of the character Antonio Balladino, who represents Anthony Munday and rails against the established genre of humours comedy. Jonson’s revisions self-consciously attempted to modernize his first play with additional references that cannot have been included in the first performed version, because the genre attacked had yet to be established.

    35It seems that Shakespeare was the first to respond to Chapman’s humours play by offering The Merry Wives of Windsor to the Chamberlain’s Men, followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1598). Jonson, who had joined the Admiral’s Men after the disastrous fall-out over The Isle of Dogs (1597; co-written with Nashe), now had access to, and perhaps contact with, Chapman and his work. Indeed, when the theatres reopened, having escaped threatened demolition in response to Jonson and Nashe’s lost but presumably seditious play, Chapman’s humours comedy was chosen, along with Doctor Faustus and ‘Joroneymo’, to encourage audiences back to the Rose.[34]

    Andrew Gurr points to the influence on comedy of An Humorous Day’s Mirth, among other plays, as ‘possibly the clearest single indicator of the power and intensity of the commercial incentive in company repertories through the whole period.’[35] The Chamberlain’s Men benefited from Shakespeare’s development of the humours genre in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Much Ado About Nothing, and Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Every Man out of His Humour (1599). Henry Porter offered Henslowe The Two Angry Women of Abingdon (1598), while Chapman apparently continued his satire of sartorial affectation in his lost play, The Fountain of New Fashions (1598). The events of summer 1597 might have almost forced the end of lawful drama in London, but without it, and the amalgamation of Pembroke’s and the Admiral’s Men, forcing Jonson’s association with Chapman, the genre of comedy might not have received such a radical overhaul at the latter playwright’s hands.

    Suddenly, plays containing references to humours on their title pages abounded: The History of Henry the Fourth ... With the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstaff (1598); The Blind Beggar of Alexandria, most pleasantly discoursing his variable humours in disguised shapes full of conceit and pleasure (1598); A pleasant Comedy entitled: An Humorous Day’s Mirth (1599); The Pleasant History of the Two Angry Women of Abingdon, with the humorous mirth of Dick Coomes and Nicholas Prouerbs, two Servingmen (1599); The Comical Satire of Every Man out of his Humor (1600); The Shoemakers’ Holiday, Or the Gentle Craft, with the humorous life of Simon Eyre, shoemaker, and Lord Major of London (1600). As Jason Scott-Warren astutely observes, ‘Humor rapidly became a marketable commodity’.[36] The dramatic tide had turned.

    ‘Pens as scalpels’: The Anatomization of Humours

    Humours shaped not only a genre but, more specifically, a mode of characterization. Gail Kern Paster notes that the language of humoural theory was common currency: ‘Every subject grew up with a common understanding of his or her body as a semipermeable, irrigated container in which humors moved sluggishly’.[37] The humoural imbalance provided dramatists with a way of augmenting the stock characters inherited from classical drama, and facilitated the development of a more individualistic and varied character palette from which to choose. As Madeleine Doran notes, ‘Humour characters of this sort are unlike the broad types of classical comedy; they are narrower and sharper’.[38] This specificity heightens realism, and also conveniently ‘makes for quick recognition on the part of reader and spectator’, arousing ‘expectations that can easily be satisfied’.[39]

    But there was another subject that fascinated Renaissance minds, one which links the theatrical event with humoural theory in an even more ‘realistic’ dramatization. In the Induction to Every Man out of His Humour, Asper scorns popularization of the word ‘humour’ and its affectation. Cordatus agrees: ‘Now if an idiot/ Have but an apish or fantastic strain,/ It is his humour’ (Induction, ll. 113-15). As remedy, Asper promises to use the play as a mirror,

    As large as is the stage whereon we act,
    Where they shall see the time’s deformity
    Anatomized in every nerve and sinew,
    With constant courage and contempt of fear.
    (ll. 117-20)

    40Anatomised Body Later in the play, the affected courtier Fastidius Brisk promises to introduce an appropriately attired Macilente to Saviolina, ‘the most divine and acute lady of the court’ (3.1.113-4). Fastidius holds her up as an ‘anatomy of wit’, here applied satirically to Saviolina, whose wit can be ‘sinewized and arterized’ (l. 117), i.e. dissected and examined in detail and held to be ‘the goodliest model of pleasure that ever was to behold’ (ll. 117-18). Perhaps Asper could be accused of taking his promised anatomization to extremes when the character he plays, Macilente, is described by Carlo Buffone as ‘A lank raw-boned anatomy’ (4.3.136-7), that is, a lean skeleton, devoured by his own envy and bitterness at the fortune and possessions granted others. A similar description is provided of Doctor Pinch in The Comedy of Errors, where Antipholus of Ephesus recalls him as ‘a hungry lean-faced villain,/ A mere anatomy ... / A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch,/ A living dead man’ (5.1.238-242). Although this account depicts Pinch as a living skeleton, a dramatized memento mori, fascination with the body as machine is also contained within these and Asper’s words.

    Frontispiece The frontispiece to Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy Baskervill records a significant increase in the occurrence of ‘anatomy’ in the titles of printed works, 1556-1595. The following provides a brief selected list: John Lyly’s Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578), Philip Stubbes’s Anatomy of Abuses (1583), Thomas Nashe’s Anatomy of Absurdity (1589), and Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Devon L. Hodges observes that ‘with violent determination, writers of anatomies used their pens as scalpels to cut through appearances and reveal the mute truth of objects.’[40] The anatomization of character and the vogue for satirical drama and literature was spawned by the increased popularity of medical dissection.

    Although public dissections began in the late fifteenth century, by the mid-sixteenth century, popularity of the spectacle had forced the building of amphitheatres in Europe to seat two or three hundred spectators. Tickets were sold for the event, which could last for up to five days.[41] In London, dissections were carried out in Barber-Surgeons’ Hall by the Company of Barber-Surgeons, who were allowed, by license of Parliament, four criminal bodies for anatomical investigation.

    Anatomy Theatre Drawings of anatomy theatres of the time reveal similarities between the spectacles of anatomization and drama. For example, in the engraving on the title-page of Vesalius’ anatomical study, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Basel, 1543), the gaze is focused on a central object, a displayed body, which no longer ‘belongs’ to its owner, while, surrounding the central spectacle, the thronging crowd are boisterous and distracted. Similarities between anatomy theatres and playhouses are not lost on scholars. Michael Neill urges that anatomy theatres ‘deserve to be recognized ... not merely for their scientific significance but as “important chapters in the historical development of the stage”’.[42] To this end, Richard Wilson advocates the Anatomy Theatre at Padua of 1594 as the ‘best preserved Renaissance playhouse’.[43] Perhaps it is unsurprising therefore that both Jonathan Sawday and Neill refer to public anatomization in dramatic terms, in Neill’s words, the ‘drama of dissection’.[44]

    Scott-Warren more specifically names the dramatic genre most similar to anatomization as humours comedy: ‘The way it dissects personality clearly aligns this comedy with the early modern anatomy theaters’.[45] Basing his theory on this Renaissance pre-occupation with the voyeuristic exposure of physical and physiological bodies, Scott-Warren also suggests similarities between humours comedy and animal baiting, a rival theatrical entertainment. He points out that the focus of interest in first-hand accounts of such blood sports is not the violence or gore of the spectacle, but the appraisal of characteristics exhibited by each animal as they fight. In fact, the animals are ‘regularly anthropomorphized by way of their surprising qualities’.[46]

    45Similarly, although Jonson is often accused of terrible cruelty to his characters, the purpose of presenting such characters onstage is didactic. Just as dissections contained an instructive element to satisfy the curiosity of a public fascinated with order, Asper promises that characters will be ‘Anatomized in every nerve and sinew’ (Every Man out of His Humour, Induction, l. 119). In a similar process of theatrical dissection, but perhaps more literally, ‘bearpits and cockpits enabled animals to become objects of knowledge, exposing their inner natures to outward view’.[47] The audience is distanced from the cruelty of tricks and treatment of characters because they are witnessing an anatomization of character, a medical procedure, rather than the torment of individual humans, onstage.

    Thus, corpse, character and animal become the object of the paying public’s gaze. Just as a visitor to a bear-baiting event might expect to derive some insight into the nature of bears or dogs, humours comedy also offered to remove superficial layers, permitting ‘privileged glimpses into private selves’.[48] Satiric portraiture takes for granted the notion of specific types and is based, as was the trend for anatomy, on the ‘observation of vitalizing and individualizing detail’.[49] The audience is privileged because the satire enables them to disengage from the characters on stage, leading to critical distance and feelings of superiority. It is no surprise, therefore, that humours comedy enjoys playing with notions of spectator and spectacle. Jonson most obviously does this in Every Man out of His Humour, by including a classical Grex, or onstage audience, in the shape of Cordatus and Mitis, whilst also employing Asper as one of the actors. These characters offer multiple frames to the way the audience views the play.

    The theatre, like an operating theatre, promises a glimpse inside a private world: not simply its characters’ private walks, houses and local taverns, but inside their very selves. Thus Lemot becomes a doctor of dissection as well as intriguer of action. Or perhaps he is the officiating medic, overseeing the procedure, as his patients, when prompted, dissect themselves and each other through their own folly. The idea of the stage as operating theatre is manifested in Scene 7, where, before the King and his assembled friends, Dowsecer enters on cue and instantly begins to display his humour, like an animal let into the baiting arena. The provision of hose, sword, picture, and codpiece by Lavel serves to remind Dowsecer of the world from which he absents himself. The prompts are also intended to act as a sort of whip, provoking Dowsecer’s humour.

    Lemot implies animal cruelty at the end of Scene 10 when he promises to ‘jerk the horse you ride on’, referring to whoever tries to mend his humour. His words are reminiscent of Alessandro Magno’s account of a baiting match in 1562, which begins with the baiting by dogs of a cheap horse ‘and a monkey in the saddle’. Magno clearly enjoys this spectacle:

    In this sport it is wonderful to see the horse galloping along, kicking up the ground and champing at the bit, with the monkey holding very tightly to the saddle, and crying out frequently when he is bitten by the dogs.[50]

    It seems logical to assume that Lemot is similarly referring to the other characters as monkeys aboard horses, which he is ‘jerking’ by use of a whip or dogs. Asper also makes reference to animals when describing the way that ‘humorous’ or affected characters react: ‘And like galled camels kick at every touch’ (Induction, l. 132). The physiological and psychological body thus becomes one in both the arenas of animal and human theatre.

    50There is a culture of observation at work throughout An Humorous Day’s Mirth: not only is Dowsecer spied on, but Lemot’s wooing of Florila is watched attentively by her jealous husband, Labervele. Jonson experiments most overtly with watching and overhearing in Every Man out of His Humour: throughout the play, characters onstage are observed by Cordatus and Mitis, who sit as privileged commentators, their criticisms in turn informing the Globe audience’s response to the action. Just as Lemot describes the amusement provided by an objectified Blanvel, so too does Carlo Buffone question Fastidius Brisk of Sogliardo: ‘How like you him, signor?’ (2.1.91), as if presenting an amusing specimen in animal, rather than human, form.

    Within the play proper there are several occasions in which characters hide themselves to witness other action onstage. A case in point is 2.1, in which Carlo Buffone, Sogliardo, Fastidius Brisk and Cinedo hide themselves at the sound of Puntarvolo’s hounds, heralding the Knight’s return. The thought of the Knight’s ridiculous fantasy, in which he pretends to woo his own wife, elicits pure mirth in Sogliardo: he cannot speak he is so consumed with it. The characters hide to observe this courtly ritual, while the Knight and his Lady unwittingly oblige. Yet when the Lady notices their fantasy is being enacted before witnesses (including Fungoso and Sordido, who have since entered) she exclaims and turns indoors (l. 365).

    Further observation occurs after Macilente’s initial railing speech, when, at the beginning of 1.2 he lies down on the stage and overhears the action subsequently played upon it, not leaving until he has witnessed Sordido, the grain-hoarding farmer, checking weather predictions in the prognostication. This exit is too early for Mitis, who feels Macilente should have stayed to hear Sordido confess his villainy. Cordatus upbraids Mitis for his misunderstanding of Macilente’s envy and, thus, his humour. Throughout the play, Cordatus, who claims to have seen a preview of rehearsals, guides Mitis, and, by implication, the audience, in their appraisal of the characters and action. Mitis is a singled-out audience member, his own musings anatomized by Cordatus for the benefit of the audience proper.

    Not only do these ‘characters’ provide commentary and criticism but herald the entrance of characters and inform the audience of scenic locations. At the beginning of the lengthy 3.1, Cordatus advises Mitis, ‘we must desire you to presuppose the stage the middle aisle in Paul’s, and that [Pointing to the door on which Shift is posting his bills] the west end of it’ (ll. 1-4). The physicality of St. Paul’s is thus translated onto the space of the Globe stage.[51]

    The critical and observational role performed by Mitis and Cordatus in Jonson’s play can also be identified in Scene 8 of Chapman’s comedy of humours. Once the male characters have assembled in Verone’s ordinary and are engaged in a game of cards, Lemot and his sidekick Catalian, fresh from an energetic tennis match, begin to discuss the other characters onstage. It is assumed that they occupy a different part of the stage space, or perhaps simply rely on the unrealistic dramatic conventions that permit certain characters to be overheard only by the audience, while the remainder continue oblivious. Helen Ostovich describes the dance-like structure of the Paul’s walk scene in Every Man out of His Humour, and suggests that in order for the scene to function ‘It is understood that each group of strollers mimes private chat when not delivering lines, and overhears only snatches of other conversations in passing’.[52]

    55Paul's Walk Similarly in An Humorous Day’s Mirth, Lemot and Catalian circle and observe the other characters, only interrupting the card game to prompt certain characters to respond as predicted to Lemot’s carefully phrased statements. This is another example of Lemot’s skill in provoking characters to respond verbally in a way that provides him with ‘excellent sport’ (TLN 1215). Lemot and Catalian also provide useful information about Rowley, the new character onstage, whose response gives Lemot the idea to predict what each character will say before prompted to do so. As soon as this jest is exhausted, Jaques enters to announce the arrival of a new set of diners. Imagining the sport they will provide him causes Lemot great satisfaction and he falls to the task of engineering the final accumulation of characters at the ordinary with predatory relish.

    Ingestion and Egestion

    Humoural theory describes the four humours within the body and advises that a proportional balance of these humours is the ideal healthy state. Any imbalance causes one humour to dominate the others, thus affecting the temperament of the person concerned. Each humour possessed distinguishable properties of temperature and moisture: black bile was cold and dry, producing melancholy; blood, producing a sanguine temperament, hot and wet; hot, dry, yellow bile produced choler; the final category, phlegm, was unsurprisingly thought cold and wet. Popular medicine believed that to help rebalance the humours, one should identify the properties of the predominant humour and balance it by ingesting medicines and foods with oppositional characteristics.

    The link between the stomach and humoural theory apparently goes back to its creator: ‘Galen allegeth a proverb which saith, A gross belly makes a gross understanding, and that this proceeds from nothing else, than that the brain and the stomach are united and chained together with certain sinews, by way of which they interchangeably communicate their damages’.[53] Therefore if a temperamental imbalance can result from bodily substances, the stomach, chief recipient of external factors affecting the body, could cure it. As Paster notes: ‘Bodies were always filled with humors, but the quantity of humors not only depended on such variables as age and gender but also differed from day to day as the body took in food and air, processed them, and released them’.[54] So diet could be thought of in medicinal terms, particularly since foods and ingredients themselves were thought to contain similar thermal properties as the humours.

    Henry Buttes’s diet book, Diet’s Dry Dinner (1599), contains eight ‘courses’ of food, focusing on fruit, herbs, meat, fish, whitemeats, spice, sauce and tobacco. Each individual entry is allocated one page explaining where to acquire it and which part to use, what is benefited or provoked, and how it should be prepared. On the facing page are a series of facts, quotations, and odd pieces of information concerning the individual item. While leeks ‘breed melancholious humours’ and are ‘unfit nourishment for any but rustic swains’,[55] cream is ‘hot and moist’ in the first degree and ‘fitter for youth, choleric and strong stomachs, then [than] the old and rheumatic’.[56] Buttes advises that spice is generally not good for those of a choleric temper since it enflames hot constitutions.

    The modern editor of Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (1615), Michael R. Best, draws attention to the importance of diet to general health in his introduction, and comments on the consecutive chapters on medicine and cookery. Best notes that: ‘Markham’s division of the two subjects into different chapters is uncharacteristic of cookery books of the period, which habitually introduce medical remedies into the midst of recipes of a purely culinary nature’.[57] He also notes that the opposite is true, with culinary recipes often finding their way into books discussing medicinal preparations.[58]

    60Baskervill provides several examples of the use of ‘humour’ in Fenton’s Certain Tragical Discourses, which is the first work he finds using the term freely. Among the examples given, it is noticeable that the verb ‘to feed’ occurs in connection with ‘humour’, so that the humours are depicted as a hungry stomach whose appetite requires satisfying: ‘Wherein, I fed the hungry humour of my affection with such alarums and contrariety of conceits, that having by this mean lost the necessary appetite of the stomach and usual desire for sleep’.[59] Just as the psychological humour requires feeding to satisfy its desire, the physiological humoural imbalance can be treated by harnessing physical appetite as a method of righting the imbalance and restoring good health of mind and body. Fenton, once again, makes the point, and links both food and humours: ‘Meats ... albeit ... good of themselves, yet, being swallowed in gluttonous sort, they do not only procure a surfeit with unsavoury indigestion, but also, converting our ancient health and force of nature into humours of debility distilling thorough all the parts of the body, do corrupt the blood which of itself afore was pure and without infection’.[60] So the advice when it comes to appetite and diet, familiar even to today’s health professionals, is ‘a little bit of everything in moderation’. Excess of one food causes imbalance not only because it provides a surfeit of one food’s properties, but also because this means the diner is neglecting other health-promoting foods.

    At the beginning of Every Man out of His Humour‘s tavern scene (5.3), Carlo Buffone sings the praises of pork because he argues that man is most like a pig and therefore will gain strength more quickly from eating pork, a point promoted by Galen’s writings.[61] However, Macilente points out to the rather inebriated Carlo another less appealing similarity between pigs and drunken men. When Fungoso has been released both from debt at the ordinary by Deliro and his humour of hankering after the latest fashion, he first wishes to eat ‘a capon’s leg’ (5.3.445). In Diet’s Dry Dinner, Buttes explains that his choice ‘procureth an equal temperature of all the humours’, thus providing physical confirmation of humoural rebalance in Fungoso’s body. [62] Ken Albala also explains that chicken was easier to digest and therefore good for a delicate system.[63]

    A further example of the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ is more literally expounded by Carlo Buffone in 2.1, when he supposes Puntarvolo feeds his Lady porridge, for ‘She could ne’er have such a thick brain else’ (l. 350). This coincides with Macilente’s conclusion concerning Carlo’s theory of pork: if a man eats pork, he may behave like a pig, a point unwittingly illustrated by Carlo at the exact moment of Macilente’s criticism.

    In Miola’s Revels edition of Every Man in His Humour he comments in 1.1 on the first appearance of the word ‘humour’ in conjunction with the verb ‘to feed’ (l. 16) and describes this phenomenon as ‘a common locution’ (1.1.16n). Later, in 3.1, Cob and Piso discuss this newly fashionable word ‘humour’, what it is and how it must be fed:

    Piso. Marry, I'll tell thee what it is, as ’tis generally received in these days: it is a monster bred in a man by self-love and affectation, and fed by folly.
    Cob. How? Must it be fed?
    Piso. Oh, ay, humour is nothing if it be not fed. Why, didst thou never hear of that? It’s a common phrase, ‘Feed my humour’.
    (3.1.149-155)

    Words concerning food and consumption are frequently associated with an excess of yellow bile, or the choleric temperament. In Every Man in His Humour, Thorello’s brother-in-law, Prospero, is staying at his house, and Thorello complains to his half-brother, Giuliano, about the lodger’s revelry. News of this bad behaviour incenses the choleric Giuliano to exclaim proverbially: ‘I could eat my very flesh for anger’ (1.4.67-8). Miola comments that here Giuliano ‘displays the volatility, irrationality, and potential self-destructiveness of the choleric humour’.[64] Bobadilla compounds association of Giuliano with appetite later in the scene by referring to him as a ‘scavenger’ (l. 118), implying that Giuliano is feeding off his prosperous relative, Thorello. The word also applies to the way Giuliano’s hungry choler is fuelled by others. Thorello, trying to calm down an irate Giuliano, bids him temper his ‘devouring choler’ (l. 144). However, Giuliano does not heed Thorello and becomes carried away by his humour in 4.2, when he storms onto the stage in search of Matheo and Bobadilla in such a rage that he does not see them, furiously muttering as he leaves that he cannot find ‘these bragging rascals!’ (ll. 99-100).

    65With so much talk of appetite and ingestion of material, it is unsurprising that these humours plays also comment on and use the language of egestion. Complaining about overuse of the word ‘humour’, Tucca in Poetaster comments: ‘I would fain come with my cockatrice one day and see a play, if I knew when there were a good bawdy one: but they say you ha’ nothing but humours, revels and satires, that gird and fart at the time, you slave’ (3.4.192-5). Tucca’s comments suggest that the humours plays merely blow bad air back at the audience, engulfing them in their own odiferous affectations. In Every Man in His Humour, the knowledge that those of a melancholic disposition were often prone to constipation enables a joke involving reference to a close-stool at 2.3.91-2. When Matheo offers the self-proclaimed melancholic Stephano his study for the writing of sonnets, Stephano enquires, almost as unnecessary confirmation of his melancholic state, whether the study has a close-stool, presumably to be used while the sonnet-writing eases his constipation.

    Appropriation of alimentary discourse allows the whole of the digestive system to be referred to, not just the mouth and stomach. In Every Man in His Humour, Bobadilla refers in his rage to the recently fled water-bearer, Cob, as ‘a turd, an excrement!’ (3.2.119). Cob meanders through the day, carrying water to the various dwelling places of the city, working his way through its streets with his fluid load. In Every Man out of His Humour, Asper provides a clear definition of humour as ‘Moisture and fluxure’ (Induction, ll. 87-89). As often as humour is referred to in conjunction with the verb ‘to feed’ it is also described in its fluid state, or ‘stream’. Humoural liquids course through men’s bodies just as Cob carries water through the city’s streets.

    Given the connection between humoural theory and the alimentary system, it is perhaps unsurprising that the characters in two humours comedies, An Humorous Day’s Mirth and Every Man out of His Humour, end up in a public eating house. When Sogliardo expresses interest in visiting an ordinary in Every Man out of His Humour, Carlo Buffone launches into a monologue of advice from which Rowley, another novice of the ordinary, might have benefited. The ordinary in An Humorous Day’s Mirth becomes the focal mid-point of the play, since Lemot has contrived for all the characters to converge on it, either within, for a meal, or without, to call their various relatives away. In balance, the celebratory festivity suggested by the King at the end of play smoothes over all tensions, promising reconciliation, and offers feasting as a way of spreading social and humoural equilibrium. This royal patronage ensures that normal societal boundaries will be observed, in direct opposition to the chaos caused by Lemot’s organisation of a similar meal.

    While it might be perfectly acceptable for married and single men to congregate at the local alehouse or ordinary, respectable women could visit only within the boundary of social convention. Attendance with one’s husband was acceptable, as was a visit to break a journey, as part of a family celebration, or in a group.[65] Suitable company was the key to a woman’s acceptable visit to the alehouse. The furtiveness and hypocrisy with which Florila plans her trip to the ordinary is therefore all the more scandalous. She lies to her husband, pretending she and Martia are going to fast in her private garden, when actually they are going to the ordinary to meet the King and Lemot in private. Of equally low reputation is the woman who allows her husband to go to the ordinary, as the Countess does, only to retrieve him later. Peter Clark observes that ‘A woman who went to the tippling house to call her husband home was likely to meet an extremely hostile reception’.[66]

    When Lemot informs the Countess that her husband is associating with women, and in particular ‘that light hussy Martia’ (TLN 1364-1365), he is highlighting the other sort of women who frequent ordinaries, namely prostitutes. In some alehouses, Clark argues, a sociable female partner boosted a host’s business.[66] She might even be required to satisfy more than her customer’s dietary needs. The uneasiness with which Verone’s Maid, carrier of his child, fills this role is obvious from her exchange with Catalian. When he advances for a kiss, she shyly protests, ‘Away, sir, fie, for shame’ (TLN 1155), and it is at this point he notes from close contact that she is pregnant.

    70The new fashion for smoking tobacco could frequently be observed in ordinaries and alehouses both on and off stage.[67] More than simply a popular pastime, tobacco was noted and advocated for its medicinal properties. Bobadilla describes it as an antidote to the most deadly poison in Florence, good for gangrenous wounds, and the dispelling of bad humours and badly digested foods (3.2.71-90). Despite impressing the eager Stephano, Bobadilla prompts a very different response from Cob, who comments that tobacco is ‘good for nothing but to choke a man and fill him full of smoke and embers’ (ll. 99-100). One unlucky smoker ‘voided a bushel of soot yesterday, upward and downward’ (ll. 103-04). Cob’s objections prompt an outburst from Bobadilla, and in the following scene nearly get him jailed by Doctor Clement, such is the feeling in favour of this wonder drug.

    Chapman introduces tobacco to the ‘ordinary’ scene in An Humorous Day’s Mirth, when Berger asks Verone for some (TLN 1105-1106). Verone in turn delegates the task of drying a leaf to his son, which enables a delightful joke. The boy replies that they haven’t got any tobacco, despite Verone assuring Berger that he had ‘The best in town’ (TLN 1107). In response, Verone desperately hisses his aside, ‘Dry a dock leaf’ (TLN 1109), at which point the boy exits and returns with a pipe. There are no directions for Berger to light the pipe onstage: perhaps he will have to wait for the ‘tobacco’ to dry.

    A great deal of fuss surrounds the use of tobacco as designator of status and securer of a woman’s admiration in Every Man out of His Humour. Fastidius Brisk insists on smoking in front of Saviolina, puffing on his pipe as a form of punctuation (3.3). Despite this fashionable affectation, Saviolina protests that she loves ‘not the breath of a woodcock’s head’ (ll. 132-33), referring to the smoker’s bad breath and also possibly the pipe’s carved bowl. Bellafront, in 1 Honest Whore, more emphatically claims that tobacco ‘makes your breath stink like the piss of a fox’ (TLN 830-31). Instead of impressing Saviolina, Fastidius’ smoking causes her to exit.

    Jonson’s plays make plain the importance for any would-be gentleman to be seen smoking. Thus, in Every Man out of His Humour, Shift is hired in 3.1 to give Sogliardo, the aspiring gent, smoking lessons. Just as going to an ordinary is considered by Sogliardo the mark of a gentleman, for ‘they say there resorts your most choice gallants’ (3.1.495-6), smoking is also imperative. Hence reference to it by the brash Berger, and the more timid Rowley’s confession that for him this is the first time he has visited an ordinary, in Scene 8 of An Humorous Day’s Mirth.

    The fashion for tobacco wasn’t simply thought to be affectation. When it was first introduced, writers such as Buttes advocated its medical blessings:

    It cureth any grief, dolor, oppilation, impostume, or obstruction proceeding of cold or wind, especially in the head or breast. The leaves are good against the migraine, cold stomachs, sick kidneys, toothache, fits of the mother, naughty breath, scaldings or burnings ... The fume taken in a pipe is good against rheums, catarrhs, hoarseness, ache in the head, stomach, lungs, breast; also in want of meat, drink, sleep, or rest.[68]

    75In particular, smoking was thought to aid phlegmatics, since it caused the expulsion of excess phlegm. That smoking caused the production of phlegm, rather than simply encouraged its ejection, was unknown at the time. In 3.1 of Every Man out of His Humour, Shift explains St Paul’s is his private phlegm-spitting place, after ‘taking an ounce of tobacco hard by here with a gentleman’ (ll. 26-27).

    However, an overabundance of phlegm was not the key complaint in humours characters. Thomas Mark Grant points out that the main obstacles to mirth in An Humorous Day’s Mirth are jealousy and melancholy.[69] More generally these humours are of recurring importance in humours comedy and are discussed at greater length below.

    Melancholy

    Perhaps one of the most frequently referred to humours, both physiological and affected, is that of melancholy. In Galenic terms an overabundance of black bile, this humour is commonly identified as gentlemanlike, and thus affected by characters such as Stephano, who worries ‘Am I melancholy enough?’ (2.3.99-100). Fastidius Brisk and Sogliardo announce they will affect melancholy in 5.2 of Every Man out of His Humour at the death of Puntarvolo’s dog, but Macilente dismisses their planned affectation as ridiculous. Miola quotes Jonson’s commendatory poem to Nicholas Breton’s Melancholic Humours (1600), in which he acknowledges the difference between genuine melancholics and those ‘wearing moods, as gallants do a fashion,/ In these pied times, only to show their brains’.[70]

    Unaware of these criticisms, Stephano introduces himself to Bobadilla and Matheo as ‘somewhat melancholy’ (2.3.71-2), as a clumsy indication of his gentlemanly status. Matheo indulges Stephano’s affectation by agreeing that ‘it’s your only best humour, sir. Your true melancholy breeds your perfect fine wit, sir’ (ll. 80-81). Matheo continues by sympathising with Stephano: he too suffers from melancholy and occupies his afflicted time with writing ‘your half-score or your dozen of sonnets at a sitting’ (l. 84). Matheo’s false affectation is of course rendered all the more deceitful when he is exposed not as an original poet, but one who copies other poets’ work and claims it as his own.

    Labesha similarly affects a very self-conscious form of melancholy when he discovers that the woman he idolises, Martia, has attended the ordinary. After informing her father of her whereabouts, he announces his intentions:

    I will in silence live a man forlorn,
    Mad, and melancholy as a cat,
    And nevermore wear hat-band on my hat! (TLN 1398-1399)

    80Frontispiece The frontispiece to Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) shows the melancholy lover with hat pulled down and his arms folded. References to the lover abound in Love’s Labour’s Lost, where Moth describes him thus: ‘with your hat penthouse-like o’er the shop of your eyes, with your arms crossed on your thin-belly doublet like a rabbit on a spit, or your hands in your pocket like a man after the old painting’ (3.1.15-19).[71] Lemot describes Blanvel’s humour as the repetition of words spoken ‘to a syllable after him of whom he takes acquaintance’ (TLN 66), and his retreat to the wall or chimney, ‘standing folding his arms’ (TLN 76-77). Perhaps this indicates that Blanvel, like Labesha, is also affecting the melancholy lover. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, Berowne refers to Cupid as ‘lord of folded arms’ (3.1.176). In the Induction to Every Man out of His Humour, Asper asks Mitis if he can spot a melancholic gallant, who ‘Sits with his arms thus wreathed, his hat pulled here,/ Cries mew, and nods, then shakes his empty head’ (ll. 160-61).

    When the melancholic Dowsecer enters quoting Cicero, he is communicating that his sympathies lie in Stoic philosophy, thereby lauding reason and the suppression of all strong emotions. Dowsecer’s entrance is preceded by that of the King, who expresses anguish at his own lack of reason: ‘And such are all the affections of love/ Swarming in me, without command or reason’ (TLN 779-780). This is the first time that Lemot and the King are together onstage, and it is clear that while the King suffers from similar stoical agonies as Dowsecer, Lemot’s task is to boost the King’s mood and distract him from these melancholic thoughts.

    Melancholy Indeed, when Dowsecer enters and begins to speak, his monologue is interspersed with approving comments from the King. The quotation from Cicero also helps to explain Dowsecer’s musings not simply as melancholic, but as stoical. The sword and items of apparel placed before Dowsecer prompt speeches declaring his dislike of the irrational, while the picture is rendered safe from wounding his affections because of the superficiality of painting which also occupies Hamlet’s mind. However, when Dowsecer comes into contact with a real woman, Martia, the strong emotions he has been attempting to keep in check overwhelm him: ‘What have I seen? How am I burnt to dust/ With a new sun, and made a novel phoenix’ (TLN 962-963).

    Dowsecer next enters in Scene 14, utterly transformed into a passionate lover: ‘I’ll geld the adulterous goat, and take from him/ The instrument that plays him such sweet music’ (TLN 1704-1705). The other characters onstage assume Dowsecer refers to the King, since he is with Martia, but this suggestion confuses Dowsecer. The identity of the ‘adulterous goat’ is therefore unknown, as is the catalyst for Dowsecer’s sudden, angered appearance. Perhaps this omission points again to a pre-theatrical copy text.

    In Scene 11, Labesha is seen fulfilling his claim, affecting melancholy in the vein of Dowsecer in Scene 7. Like Dowsecer, Labesha begins his speech with a Latin quotation, but his contemplation is interrupted by espial of the cream and spiced cake left in his path by Verone, Catalian and Berger. These are eaten with appetite and forced protestations from Labesha, who pretends he is eating to choke himself as an act of suicide. The choice of cream and spiced cake is perhaps an upmarket version of beer and toast provided by some alehouses as a snack.[72] It also serves a medicinal, corrective purpose of possessing the hot (cake) and wet (cream) properties which should help balance black bile’s cold dryness. The food provides a joke at the expense of Labesha: according to Galenic principles it should help rebalance his humours and relieve him of his melancholy, except that his humour is falsely self-imposed.

    85When Verone devises the plot to tell Labesha that Martia has drowned herself, Catalian, who has assimilated Lemot’s gift for predicting behaviour, exclaims that Labesha will probably hang himself at the news. The joke is brought to fruition with the appearance of Labesha with a halter about his neck in the final scene. It is unknown whether Labesha had been wearing the halter to inspire sympathy, or whether his loss of Martia prompted a real intention to commit suicide, like Sordido the grain speculator of Every Man out of His Humour. Sordido attempts to hang himself onstage, but is rescued by a number of rustics, just as Labesha’s intention to commit suicide is interrupted by Lemot. Labesha reluctantly succumbs to the King’s promise of a better wife for him, but there is no suggestion that his character has gained the insight to change.

    On the other hand, Sordido overhears the rustics cursing him. He realises they hate him and blames his humour: ‘It is that/ Makes me thus monstrous in true human eyes’ (3.2.104-5), vowing to change his behaviour, and dig up all the grain he had hoarded from his children and the people. He is privileged in taking part in a plot which drives the characters towards self-knowledge, the recognition of wrong-doing, change and reconciliation.

    Jealousy

    Wiggins notes that Chapman recognises marital jealousy as a good subject for stage comedy.[73] In An Humorous Day’s Mirth there is the protective and manipulative Labervele who plants jewels in his wife’s private walk, hoping she, with her staunch religious convictions, will think they have come from heaven. The jewels bear posies advising Florila to stick by her husband and not despair, for God’s power is most potent when human strength is low. It is stressed in the play that Florila, his wife, is young, and that Labervele already has a son, Dowsecer, presumably from a previous union. No maternal connection is made between Florila and Dowsecer, and it is likely that Labervele’s first wife has died and he has remarried. However, the couple seem to have some reproductive trouble, for which Labervele takes the blame: ‘She longs to have a child, which yet, alas,/ I cannot get’ (TLN 20-21). Hence Labervele’s anxiety for his scholarly son, Dowsecer, to reproduce, and thus continue the family line: Labervele seems convinced his opportunities are over.

    Anxiety about fecundity seems to drive Labervele’s desperate attempts to improve his wife’s mood and their chances of conceiving, knowing that without children to occupy and satisfy her, she might soon look elsewhere. He encourages her to wear the jewels and a velvet hood, as befits her status, ‘Not to go thus like a milkmaid’ (TLN 231-232). After her outburst at his vain suggestion, Labervele explains that maybe Florila’s reclusiveness and melancholy is the reason why she is not pregnant, suggesting she leave the house and socialise. Florila takes surprisingly quickly to this suggestion, warming to the idea that since the end of marriage is procreation,

    ... I should sin,
    If by my keeping house I should neglect
    The lawful means to be a fruitful mother
    (TLN 247-249)

    She quickly decides to follow her husband’s advice, and he is surprised by the willingness with which she abandons her former course and succumbs to his temptation, thinking it the correct solution.

    90Florila similarly abandons her Puritan stance when Lemot attempts to woo her, even devising a system of signs so that her jealous watching husband can be assured of her constancy to him; all the while she is confirming her allegiance to Lemot. While Labervele is debating whether or not he really does want his wife to leave the house, Catalian interrupts, and it is clear how Labervele fills the role of the jealous husband from this point on. He objects to being ‘thrust upon in private walks’ (TLN 270), and takes an instant dislike to everything Catalian says. Just as Labervele is whipping himself up into a frenzy, Lemot enters, announcing that it is good Christian practice to test fellow Christians’ constancy. The following scene exposes Labervele’s acute jealousy and his wife’s hypocrisy, since Lemot easily wins her over.

    In Every Man in His Humour, Thorello is similarly jealous of his wife, since her brother, who is lodging in the house, frequently invites gallants to visit and make merry. He suspects that, faced with temptation, she might not remain faithful for long. Soon after he has admitted this, he groans, ‘Troth, my head aches extremely on a sudden’ (1.4.194), which Bianca identifies as ‘this new disease’ (l. 198). Thorello agrees, but knows he is afflicted with fear of cuckoldry, which he goes on to describe as ‘poor mortals’ plague’ (l. 209), one which infects imagination and memory.

    As Deliro in Every Man out of His Humour turns his house into a shrine for his divine wife with incense and strewn flowers, Thorello talks of Bianca as his treasure and ‘Beauty’s golden tree’ (3.1.19). Just as Florila is observed enclosed within her private walk, so are Bianca and Fallace. Ironically, though, Deliro misguidedly worships his wife and is convinced by her fidelity to him, while she is dreaming of Fastidius Brisk, the handsome courtier, and each of his good parts. Only when Deliro is sent to the Counter to release Fastidius is his illusion shattered: Macilente has also sent Fallace to see her idol, and she kisses him just as Deliro enters. Thus the gullible husband is put out of his humour.

    Thorello, on the other hand, leaves his wife Bianca in the house while he goes to attend to his business and asks Piso to inform him if anyone enters the house. It is Cob who tells Deliro that several men have entered his house, to which Deliro hysterically responds ‘A swarm, a swarm’ (3.3.8), concluding that he has already been cuckolded. This hysteria is comparable with Labervele’s confused panic at an associated reference to cuckoldry, when he cries, ‘Thieves, Puritans, murderers!’ (TLN 419), whilst ushering his wife indoors.

    Indeed, Thorello displays some of Giuliano’s choleric heat when Prospero plants the idea in his head that his clothes and wine might have been poisoned. Thorello then displays the exact signs of the cuckold’s malady he described, tainting his own thoughts and memories with the notion that Bianca has indeed poisoned his cup and bid him wear that particular suit. Instantly he begins affecting illness and sends for remedies, at which Prospero exclaims: ‘Oh, strange humour! My very breath hath poisoned him’ (4.3.27-8).[74] Prospero then correctly identifies that ‘His jealousy is the poison he hath taken’ (l. 40), a point which concurs with Bianca’s conclusion: ‘If you be sick, your own thoughts make you sick’ (l. 39).

    95The additional problem of this particular illness is that it infects those around the sufferer. Prospero engineers for both Bianca and Thorello to be sent to Cob’s house on the pretext that the other is having an affair with one of the occupants. The real reason for this is to get the couple out of the house so Lorenzo Junior and Hesperida can meet one another. When the jealous couple arrive at Cob’s house, Bianca, infected by her husband’s jealousy, and acting upon Prospero’s suggestion that Thorello is a frequent visitor, assumes that Tib is a waiting-woman to her husband’s mistress. Thorello sees Bianca and assumes she has come to meet Lorenzo Senior, when he is actually there looking for his son. The mess cannot be untangled without the help of Doctor Clement.

    In Every Man out of His Humour, Deliro is to discover the truth in Thorello’s conclusion, ‘Horns in the mind are worse than on the head’ (5.3.432). This is also sound advice for Labervele, who perhaps drives his wife to temptation by closeting her up. One might also suggest, as in the case of the old Countess and her youthful husband, that some of these marriages are unsuitable matches, since they involve couples of differing ages and thus breed their own anxieties. Unions between couples such as Dowsecer and Martia, and Lorenzo Junior and Hesperida, are most healthy in promising happiness and fecundity.

    Architects of Intrigue

    According to Madeleine Doran, intrigue plays are reliant on ‘disguise, lies, clever excuses, manipulation to get characters together at the right time or keep them separate’.[75] This description perfectly fits the action of An Humorous Day’s Mirth, whose catalyst is found in an intriguer, also known in Roman comedy as the architectus.[76] Lemot is one such figure, a master-intriguer of plot and persons for the purposes of entertainment: ‘this day let’s consecrate to mirth’ (TLN 99) Lemot announces in the second scene of the play. This is the main drive of the plot: to provoke the characters into acting as predicted and enjoy the resulting confusion. Yet Lemot’s role as intriguer also invests in him the expectation of resolving all problems before he hands his power back to the King at the end of the play.

    Cuckold coat-of-arms Lemot’s plan very nearly backfires and causes him to run from the situation he has created. In Scene 14 Lemot brings the Queen and her party to the place where she expects to find the King being threatened with removal of his ‘instrument of procreation’ (TLN 1736). Encouraged by Lemot, she has interpreted this as referring to the King’s penis. Instead she encounters the angry Dowsecer, intent on gelding an ‘adulterous goat’, removing from him ‘The instrument that plays him such sweet music’ (TLN 1705). Lemot decides that since this adds truth to his lie, he’ll not flee, but stay to hear the outcome. Fortune lies in Dowsecer’s choice of words, which corroborate Lemot’s fiction and excuse him from the otherwise necessary task of explaining himself and perhaps admitting to the erroneous manufacture of lies.

    Although Lemot appears as a new manifestation of the ‘cunning slave’ stock character of Roman comedy, his status indicates a merging of categories. Doran claims that ‘The intriguer in English comedy is not often a servant; he is more likely to be one of the principals’.[77] Often referred to derisively by other characters in the play as the King’s ‘minion’ (TLN 311, 552, 698), Lemot’s status is as upper class servant to his monarch, and is thus a principal in terms of status and function in both the play and the court.

    100Charlotte Spivack invests essential importance in Lemot: ‘[The play] obtains its unity and coherence not so much from the satirical theme as from its intriguer-hero Lemot, who supervises the paradox of “humours” and manipulates the disparate characters in a highly complex plot’.[78] Lemot is crucial to the forward movement of plot, and as a uniting presence amongst characters of differing social status and age. The name given to this character is of particular interest. ‘Le mot’ very literally means ‘the word’ in French and it is therefore highly appropriate that his chief differentiating quality is his quick-witted talent with language. The use of puns, quick-fire word play, noting other characters’ language quirks, predicting speech and use of misleading language are all basic skills in Lemot’s repartee and also tools with which he advances the plot. Grant points out that ‘Monsieur Verbum’ (TLN 496), as Martia call him, preys on victims who cannot join in his word games.[79] While Martia rises admirably to the task in Scene 5, her doting guardian, Labesha, is ridiculed and distracted from his charge with flattery.

    Jonathan Hudston goes one step further in his identification of Lemot as ‘the word’, suggesting a link with the opening of John’s Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). This point places Lemot even more explicitly in a seat of power, not merely placing the crown of the King upon his head in mock-imitation of Cambyses, but also adorning himself with God’s mantle of power. The suggestion would be blasphemous to the original audience and particularly for the play’s resident Puritan. Lemot’s assumed role of all-powerful plot orchestrator admittedly places him in an omnipotent position. The King’s melancholy prompts Lemot’s intrigues as a way of lightening the monarch’s mood. Thus the departure of the King’s reasoning, which he laments in Scene 7, is indeed a cause for concern, since the power lies in Lemot’s hands to bring the King back to health with his mirthful remedies. A new order ensues, and the Puritan, whose allegiance is verbally pledged to God, turns her affections to Lemot. In this sense, Lemot really is ‘playing’ God, as the new subject of her idolatry.

    The importance of an intrigue character like Lemot is summarised by Northrop Frye: ‘Such a character, who needs no motivation because he acts merely for the fun of seeing what will happen, is to comedy what the Machiavellian villain is to tragedy, a self-starting principle of the action’.[80] With his dynamism and humorous predisposition, Lemot has been likened to the medieval Vice figure by several commentators.[81] Spivack points to him being referred to as ‘Monsieur Satan’ (TLN 689). A key factor in Lemot’s character is that although he provokes confusion and distress in some of his victims, his principal aim is to amuse himself and the King. The focus is not so much on good versus evil, as on firing warning shots suggestive of the potential each character has to be tempted into sin. Doran describes the English intriguer as ‘more apt to be a healthful exposer of men’s follies than a malicious instigator of them’.[82] Because the focus of this action is comedic, Lemot only pushes so far. The threat of temptation is welcomed by Florila, and, although she is eager to sin with Lemot, he withdraws, biting her hand in place of a kiss. Similarly, Moren is enticed to the ordinary, but Lemot knows that since so many people will be present, including the doting King, Moren will have no chance to betray his suspicious wife. Thus, Grant summarises Lemot as ‘intriguer, expositor of folly and lord of misrule’.[83]

    But the intriguer doesn’t merely invent the plot. His desire for mirth prompts him to share it with his offstage audience. Lemot’s continual commentary and critical display of character invites detachment and satirical evaluation of onstage action from the audience. As Brian Gibbons observes, ‘Lemot’s function is also to effect the isolation of a character, from his stage companions and from the audience’s sympathy’.[84] He does this most effectively with the display of Blanvel’s humour in Scene 2 and the taunting of Labesha in Scene 8.

    G. K. Hunter offers high praise for this development in character: ‘George Chapman is the author whose comedies show best the double role of intriguer and commentator in a dramaturgy that aims to reconcile witty exposé and well-plotted comedy’.[85] Hunter continues by falsely crediting Lemot with the ability ‘to mislead but not to understand his victims’.[86] Surely it must be essential for Lemot to comprehend exactly his fellow characters, their humours, the predictability of their actions and speech. He perfectly acknowledges the jealousy of Labervele and the Countess, Florila’s hypocritical Puritanism, Martia’s feisty, flirtatious spirit and Labesha’s dull wit, further recognising the amusement to be gained from encouraging these follies. He may not entertain sympathy for such ‘humours’, but that is not his concern. As Millar MacLure points out: ‘Lemot is for the green world: for youth against age, for crowds against solitude, for cakes and ale against sobriety, for free love against jealousy. He is an active verb too, for he, as the tale-teller, sets all in motion and dissolves all secrecy’.[87]

    105While Lemot recourses to the earlier dramatic authority of Cambyses to claim his mock-monarchic role, the intriguer of Every Man in His Humour uses New Comedy’s staple ingredient of disguise to maintain his control of the plot. Musco, servant to Lorenzo Senior, but intent on his son’s favour, first employs the disguise of a soldier to effect his influence on the action, and overtly relishes his new role:

    ’Sblood, I cannot choose but laugh to see myself translated thus, from a poor creature to a creator; for now must I create an intolerable sort of lies or else my profession loses his grace.
    (2.1.1-4)

    In these lines Musco gestures towards the Tamburlainic rise to power, despite employing the false means of disguise, just as Irus had done in Chapman’s The Blind Beggar of Alexandria. Although Lemot becomes embroiled in the plot much in the same way as Musco, the extent of his entanglement is lies, mentioned above by Musco as the intriguer’s staple. Lemot’s only attempt at sartorial disguise comes in the form of a scarf tied about his allegedly injured arm in Scene 12, suggestive of encountered violence, and excusing him from fighting alongside the others.

    Musco’s wit, like Lemot’s, is almost defeated by a threatened excision when Doctor Clement teaches him a lesson about use of the word ‘must’ by threatening to cut off Musco’s legs, ears, nose and head. The threat works in Musco’s favour by prompting him to reveal his true identity and plotting, earning him Doctor Clement’s praise and the honour of wearing his robes. Similarly, Lemot’s frenetic plot nearly evades his management when he tells the Queen that her husband’s ‘instrument of procreation’ is under siege. He is saved by Dowsecer who enters at just the right moment and angrily vows to remove ‘The instrument that plays him such sweet music’ (TLN 1705), thought by the Queen to confirm the threat to her husband’s penis. Lemot realises that this saves his skin and remains onstage just at the point when he was ready to abandon his plot. Lemot’s machinations, like Musco’s, delight the governing character, here the King, who organises a final convivial celebration of marriage, just as Doctor Clement similarly announces the wedding of Lorenzo Junior and Hesperida as a reason to bury the hatchet.

    So while Every Man in His Humour has one intriguer, Musco, and one higher status character, Doctor Clement, to tangle and untangle the plot, Chapman employs only Lemot as intriguer to manipulate the characters of An Humorous Day’s Mirth. Admittedly, the King functions as a peacemaker at the conclusion, but he has no real power during the course of the play, perhaps because sympathising with Dowsecer’s sentiments in Scene 7 has rendered him inactive. This may also explain why there are no punishments at the end of An Humorous Day’s Mirth. Clement is placed in a judicial role with power to mete out retribution. Besides, the transgressive characters in An Humorous Day’s Mirth have been exposed to their partners and their public, for example, Moren, hiding from his wife, and Jaquena, whose pregnancy is revealed in the course of Lemot’s lottery. Labervele does not discover his wife’s attendance at the ordinary, but she is punished by Lemot, who bites her hand when she expects a kiss. If the punishments are contained within the action, there is no need for situations such as the exclusion and humiliation of Matheo and Bobadilla in Every Man in His Humour.

    The didactic purpose of Every Man out of His Humour is made explicitly clear in the Induction when Asper promises to ‘strip the ragged follies of the time/ Naked as at their birth’ (ll. 15-16) and ‘give these ignorant well-spoken days/ Some taste of their abuse of this word humour’ (ll. 77-78). In contrast with Lemot, whose comparatively innocent aim is to ‘consecrate [the day] to mirth’ (TLN 99), Asper announces his intentions with the following claim:

    ...My strict hand
    Was made to seize on vice, and with a grip
    Crush out the humour of such spongy souls
    As lick up every idle vanity.
    (ll. 142-45)

    110The apparent venom with which Asper’s objectives are voiced might provoke alarm at his force and lack of control. The following section discusses the dramatic boundaries imposed on the action of seemingly unpredictable and omnipotent intriguers.

    Containment and Control

    Despite the similarities between the theatrical spectacles of animal baiting, anatomical dissection, and plays, there is one principle difference between the former two categories and the latter. However realistically the characters paraded in the play are drawn, their realism is nothing compared with the actual bodily dismemberment occurring in the alternative entertainments. Not only is the action fictional, but it is made safe in a variety of ways.

    In An Humorous Day’s Mirth, this is partly achieved by the publicised self-containment of the play’s action within one day, coupled with a notion that Lemot’s activity will also be limited within this frame. There is little to be feared that cannot be righted by the seizure of power by the King in the final scene. Wiggins’s statement on comedy is therefore true of this play: ‘the comic structure limits and contains the disruptive energies of the aspirant imagination.’[88] Containment is also achieved by location within the private walks and houses of the characters, who are then shepherded to the ordinary, where the play’s ‘catastrophe’ is unravelled. Miraculously, Lemot manages to engineer the plot so that it is always just about within his controlling grasp.

    Although Chapman consciously chooses mostly French names for his characters, and has them name-drop their fellow Parisian citizens, the specific setting of the play is lost on at least two commentators. While Anne Barton scornfully refers to ‘Chapman’s nameless French city’,[89] missing all references to Paris, Jonathan Haynes criticises lack of definition making it nearly impossible ‘to tell if we are in the city or the country’.[90] On the contrary, ease of movement between the great houses of Count Labervele and maybe also the King, scenes referring to the street as location, and the presence of an ordinary deemed good enough for royal entertainment suggest that the action undeniably occurs within a city. Augmented with references to a tennis match recently played and brothel visited, the city becomes a vivid environment for the play’s action, and that city, because it is so named, is Paris. Furthermore, Wiggins, who has correctly spotted the play’s location, identifies this as ‘the first English comedy to have a realistic modern setting’.[91]

    Until Elizabeth’s death made available political material from her reign, English playwrights looked to Europe for contemporary events.[92] Hence, Dekker’s The Civil Wars of France (1598-9), which existed in four parts, all of which are lost, and Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris (c.1591), coupled with Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595) and An Humorous Day’s Mirth point to France as a popular location for drama of the 1590s.

    115Like The Comedy of Errors before and Every Man in His Humour after, An Humorous Day’s Mirth occurs within the space of one day. This is signalled by Lemot in Scene 2 when he dedicates the day to mirth. The reason why this scene is not the first witnessed by the audience is because Count Labervele’s appearance draws specific attention to the start of the day at the beginning of the play. Entering in his night-gown, indicative of a scene occurring at night or in the early hours of the morning to an Elizabethan audience, Labervele announces that day is breaking, but that ‘the soil of night/ Sticks still upon the bosom of the air’ (TLN 5-6). He has risen early to hide jewels in his wife’s private garden, before the rest of the house stirs: ‘Her maid, nor any waking I can see’ (TLN 8).

    Riddled with jests and complex plotting, the day continues until the characters meet for dinner at the ordinary, presumably halfway through the day, as it is also at the mid-point in the play. The morning’s entertainment has comprised Florila’s wooing, observation of Dowsecer’s melancholy, and the invitation of key characters to the ordinary for the midday meal. The afternoon’s distraction involves the disentanglement of Lemot’s scheming and the entertainment of the lottery, after which the King invites the whole company back to his court, ‘where with feasts we will crown/ This mirthful day, and vow it to renown’ (TLN 2004-2005). The day is therefore segregated by refection, while the action progresses from private dwellings to the public ordinary, and on to the King’s court, where the day’s events will be celebrated and any unhappiness dispelled by monarchic approval. In balance with Lemot’s assumption of royal power in Scene 2 is the King’s reclamation of his title, diffusing tensions and preventing further disharmony. The wild and unpredictable reign of Lemot has reached its diurnal termination.

    Barton acknowledges that while the purpose of containing the action of The Comedy of Errors in a single day is to create a sense of urgency with Egeon’s threatened execution, in An Humorous Day’s Mirth the device provides a safety net within which the action is contained. The timing is ‘quite appropriately that of a practical joke’, since retardation ‘would have provoked questions, and aroused sympathies’.[93] Despite provoking rather serious questions about marital conduct by a dangerous schemer, the play’s potential for harm is thus limited by its time, resulting in a compact play injected with wit.

    Reassurance of genre also acts as another method of containment, rendering safe the action witnessed onstage, and diffusing any possibility of real pain or death. As Wiggins has identified, comedies have the potential to become tragedies, and the ‘pain is only bearable ... through the knowledge that the play is not a tragedy’.[94] But given the provocative machinations of Lemot and the need for the King to deliver a speech condoning the day’s events, ‘now all are friends, now is this day/ Spent with unhurtful motives of delight’ (TLN 1999-2001), how satisfactory is the ending? Unlike Jonsonian comedy, emphasis is on complete reconciliation rather than the driving of characters out of humours as in Every Man out of His Humour, or their punishment, as in the exclusion of Bobadilla and Matheo by Doctor Clement in Every Man in His Humour.

    In Chapman’s play only Dowsecer is cured, distracted from his melancholic humour by the sight of beautiful Martia. This is not Lemot’s purpose, but a by-product of the action. Lemot fits Doran’s description of the English intriguer who ‘is more apt to be a healthful exposer of men’s follies than a malicious instigator of them’.[95] Like Rinaldo in All Fools, Lemot is disinterested save in the hilarity such exposure provides him.

    120As Wiggins points out, the play rejects divine intervention from the first scene, when Labervele places his jewels in Florila’s garden and hopes she will think they are gifts from heaven.[96] The lottery in the final scene also rejects chance and fate, since Lemot, who has written the posies, has rigged it. Appropriately for a plot concerned with the predictability of character and linguistic play, the lottery, with its customised posies, comes closest to judgement and public punishment. Even the prizes awarded to each character are tokens of judgement and criticism: the Queen receives a heart of gold, while Florila’s Puritanism is mocked by awarding her a Catholic rosary. After a day consecrated to mirth, a mock judgement is all the audience can expect, especially since the King, in whom the real power is invested, is complicit with the architect of the intrigue, his minion Lemot.

    The point of the play is therefore not as a didactic display of errant characters, but as a mirthful, time-bound entertainment. One senses that the characters will not change much as a result: Labesha and the Queen will remain foolish, Labervele and the Countess jealous of their younger spouses, Florila an insufferable Puritan and Blanvel the affected gentleman. As C. G. Thayer observes of Jonsonian comedy, ‘the audience is educated by watching the comic characters remain essentially uneducated’.[97]

    Gentlemen

    Humours plays prey hungrily on the new taste for upward mobility. Labesha is very keen to stress his gentlemanly status (TLN 808), and Rowley attends the ordinary despite his sartorial poverty, borrowing money from one of his father’s retainers. The importance of outward appearances and the desire to become a ‘gentleman’ is also keenly addressed by Jonson in Every Man in His Humour and Every Man out of His Humour. In the latter play, Carlo Buffone explains to the would-be gentleman Sogliardo what such status demands of him: ‘First, to be an accomplished gentleman, that is, a gentleman of the time, you must give o’er housekeeping in the country and live altogether in the city amongst gallants, where, at your first appearance, ‘twere good you turned four or five hundred acres of your best land into two or three trunks of apparel’ (1.2.41-46). Carlo continues by stressing that Sogliardo should study social conduct and deportment, learn the popular card and dice-games of primero and passage, ‘ha’ two or three peculiar oaths to swear by that no man else swears’ (ll. 51-52), eat at the ordinary, ‘sit melancholy, and pick your teeth when you cannot speak’ (ll. 60-61).

    Furthermore, ‘when you come to plays, be humorous, look with a good starched face, and ruffle your brow like a new boot; laugh at nothing but your own jests, or else as the noblemen laugh’ (ll. 61-64). The noblemen, born to their elevated status, must be observed and copied for correct conduct by the aspiring gentlemen. Much of Carlo’s advice involves joining in the activities of other gentlemen and noblemen, adopting certain behaviours, wearing the right clothes and saying the right things: in general, making the correct impression until one is accepted by current members of the club. Part of the Jonsonian joke lies in Sogliardo’s attempts to follow this advice which predictably end in failure: frequently for those who aspire above their station, a natural taste for the genuine is lacking. Hence the comic novelty of Sogliardo’s newly purchased coat of arms which rebels against authentic heraldry and good taste in its variety of colours and symbols. Like the behaviour Carlo advises him to adopt, the coat of arms stands out as a fabricated attempt at something to which Sogliardo has not been born. Hence the acknowledgement of his true breeding in his rough hands, which correctly identify him and put Saviolina out of her humour.

    Humours comedy often exposes the folly of characters adopting elevated behaviours. Every Man in His Humour contains Stephano, who thinks possession of a hawk, without any knowledge of what to do with it, will make him seem a gentleman. Lorenzo Senior’s advice to him is simply ‘learn to be wise’ (1.1.59), but Stephano is too proud to heed it, fancying himself in a pair of silk hose in the following scene. His desire for nice, gentlemanly things gets him into trouble when he picks up Giuliano’s dropped cloak and decides to wear it, despite knowing to whom it rightfully belongs. After being threatened with arrest he returns it.

    125Wooing In the same play, Bobadilla adopts the role of the braggart soldier who boasts of his prowess with a sword but refuses to fight Giuliano, claiming he is afraid he will beat him. As justice, Giuliano literally beats him, prompting Bobadilla to invent the ridiculous excuse that he couldn’t reach his sword because he was planet struck. His pretensions have him repeat the phrase ‘as I am a gentleman’, as does Labesha in An Humorous Day’s Mirth (TLN 1169-1170, 1199). Both Bobadilla and Labesha hopelessly dote on a woman: the former reads poetry to Hesperida, who ends up betrothed to Lorenzo Junior; Labesha fawns on Martia, and is the approved choice of her father, but loses out to Dowsecer, whose return to health is prompted by the sight of his future bride.

    The concluding speech by the King in An Humorous Day’s Mirth has the very opposite effect to Musco being invested with Doctor Clement’s robes and dubbed a Lord of Misrule: it represents the reclamation of power by the ruling monarch who retrieves it from his minion’s grasp. The King’s final speech smoothes over the hostility still present between Moren and his wife, stressing Lemot’s ‘unhurtful motives of delight’ (TLN 2000-2001), and anticipating enjoyment of the wedding celebrations that evening. It is the dramatic equivalent of using a sticking plaster to mend an open wound. Whether the characters have learnt their valuable lessons and heeded the lottery’s advice is matter for another day, perhaps with less mirth.

    Scholarly Characters

    The part of Macilente, played by Asper in the play proper of Every Man out of His Humour, smacks more of spite than Lemot’s mirthful outlook: in 5.3 Cordatus promises his fellow onstage observer Mitis, ‘you shall see the true picture of spite anon’ (l. 428). Earlier in the same scene, Carlo Buffone has described the otherwise lean Macilente as lying ‘a-soaking in their frothy humours like a dry crust, till he has drunk ‘em all up’ (ll. 26-28). Macilente plays the part of the scholar, and bemoans the fortunes of others. In 2.2 he is so charmed by the sight of Fallace that he enviously wishes himself to have been born a woman:

    What moved the heavens, that they could not make
    Me such a woman, but a man, a beast,
    That hath no bliss like to others?
    (ll. 158-60)

    Unlike Macilente, Lemot seems to have little concern about the fortunes or relationships of others and reveals no such envy himself. His interest in the other characters extends only to the entertainment they can provide him, and, by implication, the King.

    Macilente shares his scholarly, reclusive nature with another of Chapman’s creations, Dowsecer. In Scene 7, the latter, observed by the other characters, rails against the objects placed in his way by his friend Lavel. Whilst contemplating items of clothing he satirically concludes, ‘A large hose and a codpiece makes a man’ (TLN 875-876), and continues by criticising fashion addicts, such as Fungoso, for whom the outer garment is of more importance than the interior person. His attitude contrasts with that of the gallants in the ordinary who express interest in Rowley’s collar and discuss its merits. Macilente, on the other hand, concurs with Dowsecer, and his following exclamation exposes both his envy and dismay at Fungoso’s new suit:

    I fain would know of heaven now why yond fool
    Should wear a suit of satin? He? That rook?
    That painted jay with such a deal of outside?
    What is his inside, trow?
    (2.2.206-10)

    130Later in the play, Macilente is provided with clothes suitable for visiting court, since Fastidius Brisk has previously referred to him as a ‘seam-rent’ fellow (Il.2.284). Macilente is struck by his own external decoration and marvels that ‘Be a man ne’er so vile/ In wit, in judgement, manners, or what else’ (3.3.11-12), if that man can ‘purchase but a silken cover,/ He shall not only pass, but pass regarded’ (ll. 13-14). He amuses himself with the thought that the same man being ‘poor and meanly clad’ (l. 15) could easily be mistreated by a man of lower degree and great ignorance.

    Men’s dressThe King in An Humorous Day’s Mirth is similarly concerned with appearance and reality at the beginning of Scene 7 where he expresses disillusionment with his own genuineness. He curses the trumpeters who would seem to mock him, ‘Not telling what I am, but what I seem:/ A king of clouts, a scarecrow, full of cobwebs’ (TLN 777). His consideration of the inner and outer trappings of man are what he shares with both Dowsecer, whose speech he pronounces as ‘but perfect judgement’ (TLN 856), and Macilente.

    The role of the scholar is approached diversely by a range of other characters. In Every Man in His Humour, Lorenzo Senior is distressed by his son’s dedication to study in 1.1 and wishes to bring Lorenzo Junior back to a course of reason from his current state of folly, as he himself discovered to his advantage:

    Myself was once a student and, indeed,
    Fed with the self-same humour he is now,
    Dreaming on naught but idle poetry.
    But since, experience hath awaked my sprites,
    And reason taught them how to comprehend
    The sovereign use of study.
    (1.1.15-20)

    Labervele is similarly distressed by his son’s scholarly pursuits, which have led Dowsecer to conclude that reproduction is of no interest to him, children being but troublesome burdens to their parents, and prompting anxiety in his father for the continuation of the family.

    However, not all characters are dismayed by scholarly behaviour. Just as Labesha is impressed enough to affect Dowsecer’s construction and style of speech, if extremely badly, so does Clove of Every Man out of His Humour embark on a complex monologue, punctuated by Orange’s oaths. Clove expresses his admiration of scholars by wishing to be mistaken for one in St Paul’s: ‘let’s talk fustian a little and gull ‘em, make ‘em believe we are great scholars’ (3.1.169-70). Clove’s speech includes a misquotation of Julius Caesar, which he quotes as ‘Reason long since is fled to animals’ (ll. 193-94). An echo of this also appears in Scene 2 of The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll (1600), and is probably behind Dowsecer’s desire to decompose within the earth and become grass eaten by ‘oxen, asses and such-like’ (TLN 934).

    135The effect of Shakespeare’s quote in Clove’s mouth simply serves to illustrate that, indeed, reason abides not there, but may well have fled to animals. Clove shortly abandons his pretentious discourse: ‘Let us return to our former discourse, for they mark us not’ (3.1.200-1), highlighting the difference between those affecting a scholarly temperament, like himself, and a true scholar such as Dowsecer.

    While Clove and Orange desire to impress other people parading up and down the west aisle of St Paul’s, but fail to be overheard, Dowsecer’s speech expresses his internal thoughts for his own benefit. His language does not alter from his presumed solitary state to when he is engaged in conversation with his father. This marks him out as a true scholar, along with the simple fact that his words, difficult to untangle as they are, contain greater clarity than Clove’s cluster of impressive sounding words and ideas, presumably gleaned from overhearing others. It is this intelligence which impresses both the King and Martia when they listen to Dowsecer.

    Dramatic Discussion of An Humorous Day’s Mirth

    The most explicit, and perhaps amusing, joke in An Humorous Day’s Mirth reaches its climax in the final scene. It concerns Lemot’s witty word play and careful choice of the phrase ‘instrument of procreation’ to mislead the Queen into thinking her husband’s penis is about to be detached from his body. When the object concerned turns out to be Martia, a woman, thus fitting Lemot’s description, the Queen is relieved, if embarrassed, and Lemot lives up to his name once again.

    It is appropriate that this memorable joke concerns reproduction. Marital relations cause the most concern, and comedy, in this play. Part of this anxiety lies in inter-generational marriage, part in the unwillingness of children to obey their parents’ wishes. The play opens with Labervele’s monologue, in which he describes his ‘device’ (TLN 12) to the audience. He explains that it is still dark and he has gained entry to Florila’s forbidden garden by copying her key. His purpose is to plant posy-inscribed jewels for Florila to find and persuade her that, although they haven’t yet had any children, it is her Christian duty to stay faithful to her husband. He betrays his marital anxiety by pointing out that she is both young and attractive. The fruits of this ratiocination are observed in Scene 4, when Florila finds the jewels but is far from impressed with her husband’s poetry. For Labervele the scene is disastrous: in persuading his wife to wear richer clothes and increase her social activity, he only succeeds in augmenting his own anxieties.

    Countess Moren similarly suffers from marital jealousy of her younger spouse. She begs Moren not to go to the ordinary for fear that other, younger women might be there. The couple exchange the word ‘bird’ as a reassuring term of affection: for Moren it serves as a means of pacifying his needy wife, while she uses it as a whiny expression of dependence. Scene 12, in which Lemot both confuses and reassures the Queen, is punctuated with the Countess’s moans concerning the fickleness of men and the particular cruelty of her husband. The insecurity of this marriage is obviously built on the age gap between husband and wife, which all the more blatantly points towards their lack of children, and a potential factor of unification. In contrast with the unfruitfulness of the old Countess and Labervele with their respective marital spouses is Verone’s Maid. Her pregnancy is announced during the course of the lottery in the final scene, but Catalian has previously pointed out that she is not yet married to Verone: ‘Hark you, my host, you must marry this young wench. You do her mighty wrong else’ (TLN 1156-1157).

    140There is an unsubtle irony in the fact that the unconsecrated union is the most fecund, perhaps since in this relationship Verone is seen to express his warm feelings for Jaquena: ‘Oh, sweet Jaquena, I dare not say I love thee’ (TLN 1046). His tone is genuinely reassuring and her fortunate condition is highlighted when he places her in the role of Queen Fortune in the lottery presentation. The thought of ‘young fortunes’ (TLN 1959) pattering about the ordinary is touching and hopeful, and also an anticipatory outcome of Dowsecer and Martia's union.

    Dowsecer initially voices concern and repulsion at the thought of sex and procreation in Scene 7, but the sight of the beautiful Martia swiftly changes his mind. He is one of two motherless sons in the play, along with Verone’s Boy, pointing to a very real absence of mothers in particular, perhaps due to death in childbed. Martia’s mother is also missing. It is more likely that Chapman was not trying to represent realistically a common sociological problem, but that male parents best served his plot. As the concerned old father, Foyes perfectly fits the pantalone or senex role. But the lack of one complete nuclear family places greater emphasis on married couples without children, and the resultant anxiety it breeds.

    The subjects of jealousy, marital disharmony, and anxiety about pregnancy and sex cut across all strata of society, from the King’s penis to Jaquena’s pregnant belly. Despite social inclusion, the play’s premise is a great leveller of all characters. Social status is of less importance than each character’s potential for providing mirth. Although Lemot humiliates Jaquena by announcing her pregnancy as one of the posies in the lottery, in general the lower status characters, such as Verone and Jaques, work alongside him in gulling the idiotic victims. Locations support choices of characters from a societal cross-section: private, moneyed dwelling places, fit for the reception of kings, give way to a presumably upmarket tavern, while the conclusive offstage action is promised at the King’s court.

    The containing, external elements of An Humorous Day’s Mirth are complemented by its neatly compact structure. Characters are balanced with one another: there are two jealous, older spouses, two anxious fathers, two young, easily tempted women, and two fatherless sons. However, the individuals within each pair are very different: Dowsecer concerns his father because of his lack of interest in sex, but Foyes fears his daughter being preyed on by unsuitable young men; Florila is a young wife and allegedly devout Puritan while Martia is single and openly free-spirited. So the balanced symmetry designed by Shakespeare in Love’s Labour’s Lost is present but reinvented in different and interesting ways by Chapman. An Humorous Day’s Mirth also contains plenty of imbalance: the gallants are excluded from the pairing; five men, two of whom are married, chase one woman; married characters flirt and encourage illicit goings on; and the balance of the family unit is in upheaval.

    Across these symmetries work the previously identified tensions of jealousy, intrigue and sex. These tensions are already existent amongst Chapman’s characters, but become magnified and motivated into dramatic consequences by the prime mover, Lemot. By playing with onstage and offstage watching, interacting with his audience and other characters, Lemot carefully exposes comic humours and places pressure on already strained relations. He is witty, cunning and engaging, a fact not lost on his fellow characters. Part of his success is due to clever manipulation of language, part because of his reputation. Labervele’s response to Lemot’s entry in Scene 4 voices this concern best: ‘God’s my passion, whom do I see? The very imp of desolation, the minion of our King, whom no man sees to enter his house but he locks up his wife, his children, and his maids, for where he goes he carries his house upon his head like a snail’ (TLN 310-315).

    145Labervele is clearly worried that his wife and household are at risk, such is the threat Lemot poses. Despite Labervele’s choleric protestations, Florila is soon in private conversation with Lemot and within a hundred lines is being kissed by him. As it turns out, Labervele is right to fear Lemot’s influence on his wife, even though Lemot himself has no desire to take his dalliances with her any further than is necessary for the purposes of his mirthful humiliation of her professed religion. He is paradoxically intricately involved with the plot, but detached from the characters within it. This affords his audience a similar detachment, further aided by witty asides containing snippets of additional information.

    Since Labervele is a suspicious, jealous husband, it is unsurprising that he reacts so violently to Lemot’s entry. He is similarly cautious when Catalian enters a few lines earlier. In the next scene, however, the Countess suggests that Lemot’s reputation precedes him, since she cuttingly remarks, ‘So now we shall have all manner of flattering with Monsieur Lemot’ (TLN 478). Martia pitches in wittily and begins a series of puns on Lemot’s name: ‘Madam, we shall not have one mot of Monsieur Lemot, but it shall be as it were a moat to drown all our conceit in admiration’ (TLN 485-487). Women and insecure men fear Lemot, are in awe of his reputation, so that his associates are composed only of single gallants and the King, his patron. The label ‘imp of desolation’ therefore adds a frisson of danger to Lemot’s character.

    Although the female parts can be labelled as stereotypical caricatures of the hypocritical Puritan, the shrewish older wife and the flirtatious younger woman, the women are given a feisty and vocal role until their individual humiliation. Indeed Martia’s boisterous verbal banter disappears after the incident with the King at the ordinary, replaced by an absence of speech, prompted by Lemot’s warning posy: ‘Change for the better’ (TLN 1946).

    Chapman carefully ensures that the action builds towards a purpose, and Lemot’s aim is to organise the congregation of key characters for a meal at the ordinary. This scene follows another group scene at the pivotal midpoint of the play. The observation of Dowsecer in Scene 7 is neatly inverted in the spectacle presented by the tavern scene to the audience, in which the tables are turned and the assembled characters are unwittingly spied upon by Lemot and Catalian.

    These two scenes demonstrate the new fascination with humours, not just as a medicinal theory, but as a mode of characterisation. The stock characters inherited from older forms of drama are still present: the melancholy scholar, jealous husband, shrewish wife, idiotic gull, protective father, and witty intriguer. But they are given a special sharp focus, and are accompanied by other characters whose interest is contained in their quirks and idiosyncrasies. The format also allows new characters minor cameo roles: Rowley only appears in Scene 8, but is used to illustrate Dowsecer’s point concerning the disparity between outer appearance and inner substance, and is also preyed on in Lemot’s predictive word game. Berger has an extra scene in which Labesha’s affected melancholy is exposed, but his role in Scene 8 appears to add background locational colour, since his visit to the Parisian brothel is mentioned, and furthers the point about reputation.

    150By stressing individual character type, Lemot is able to make predictions concerning behaviour, for example with Blanvel in Scene 2, and language, exemplified in Scene 8’s predictive word game. But Lemot most cunningly displays his skills when unselfconsciously performing tricks. An example can be found at the end of Scene 12, when Lemot has informed the Queen, Foyes, Labervele and the Countess of the goings on involving the King. He gives them enough information to prompt each of them to ask the right question concerning their own daughter, son and husband. As a trick, it triumphs over the predictive game in the tavern because the audience are not informed in advance of what Lemot is planning.

    Language

    Since both An Humorous Day’s Mirth and Love’s Labour’s Lost play on the acquisition and punning use of words, it is no surprise that linguistic comparison can be made between the two. In his introduction to Love’s Labour’s Lost, Woudhuysen notes several similarities between Shakespeare’s play and An Humorous Day’s Mirth, most of which have been mentioned in the Date and Sources sections of the Textual Introduction. Two further possible examples are included in this section, since they involve borrowings of language. In 1.2 Armado uses the phrase ‘pretty and pathetical’ (ll. 92-93), which also appears in An Humorous Day’s Mirth (1.36) and The Widow’s Tears (3.1.120-1).[98] Woudhuysen also suggests that the word ‘preambulate’ used by Armado at 5.1.74 is copied by Chapman, and uses this example to support changing the Q and F reading from ‘preambulat’, despite the occurrence antedating the first OED entry.[99]

    Further similarities between the language and word-play of the two comedies are noted below. It is difficult and dangerous to identify specific lines as source material which might simply be products of a shared cultural and linguistic background. However, the instances below are recorded for interest’s sake, particularly because the words involved present difficulty of interpretation in either play.

    Just such an example is the reference in An Humorous Day’s Mirth to Lemot as an ‘imp of desolation’ (TLN 311). When Armado calls Moth ‘dear imp’ (1.2.5), Woudhuysen notes that use of the word as a noun is quite rare in Shakespeare, only occurring twice in this play and twice in two others. ‘Desolation’ also occurs in Love’s Labour’s Lost at 1.2.153, but causes the editor confusion since its context calls for a different word. It appears again in 5.2.357 to imply ‘loneliness, solitariness’. Lemot is again referred to as Florila’s ‘desolate prover’ in 6.24. A description of Berowne by Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost could also be used of Lemot:

    His eye begets occasion for his wit,
    For every object that the one doth catch
    The other turns to a mirth-moving jest,
    Which his fair tongue, conceit’s expositor,
    Delivers in such apt and gracious words
    That aged ears play truant at his tales
    And younger hearings are quite ravished,
    So sweet and voluble is his discourse.
    (2.1.69-76)

    The passage captures Lemot’s fondness for mirth and jests, as well as his charming gift with language, a gift he can easily use to mislead or hurt other characters.

    155The opportunity for word play on Lemot’s name, in French literally meaning ‘the word’, is mirrored in Moth’s name. In 5.1 Costard punningly comments to Moth that he marvels ‘thy master hath not eaten thee for a word’ (ll. 38-39), playing on the French pronunciation of Moth as mot. Chapman develops the theme in Scene 5 of An Humorous Day’s Mirth, in which Martia and Lemot engage in a battle of wits which almost becomes a slanging match, and all the women present take part. Every possible meaning of mot, mote and moat is employed until Lemot concludes the section with a further pun: ‘Here’s a poor name run out of breath quickly’ (TLN 492). Without drawing breath, the dialogue turns to the Latin lesson as a source of mirth.

    Shakespeare employs this theme over the next couple of years in The Merry Wives of Windsor and also in Henry V, where the subject of the lesson has become English. Lemot invites Martia to ‘Decline me, or take me a hole lower’ (TLN 505), correctly observing the proverbial origin of the phrase, and therefore explaining its use in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Moth advises his master, Armado, ‘let me take you a buttonhole lower’ (5.2.696), meaning that he will unbutton his master’s clothes for the fight, but the phrase also implies humiliation.

    Lemot flirtatiously humiliates Martia with his sexual invitation, but she rejects his advance and continues with her Latin declination. The resulting joke, observed and articulated by a crowing Labesha, is that Martia calls Lemot an ass by declining ‘moto, motas‘ (TLN 508). An identical joke is included in 5.2 of Love’s Labour’s Lost, where Holofernes, playing Judas Maccabeus in the show, is called an ass: ‘Jud-as away!’ exclaims Berowne (l. 622). Both plays include a joke about the state of a character’s shirt, or lack of it, with reference to Rowley and Armado. All An Humorous Day’s Mirth lacks is the concluding cuckoo song from Love’s Labour’s Lost, for a play in which every husband is either almost cuckolded or has attempted to cheat on his wife.

    Lemot describes one of Blanvel’s humours thus: ‘he will speak the very selfsame word to a syllable after him of whom he takes acquaintance’ (TLN 65-66). He then gives an example of this, in which the imaginary Blanvel repeats word for word whatever Lemot says. When his character enters shortly afterwards, he neither disappoints nor contradicts Lemot. After a short series of repeated phrases Lemot goes about plotting his next intrigue, and Blanvel’s humour is forgotten until the end of the scene. The joke seems to lie in the fact that, because of his repetition of everything Lemot says, it is difficult to encourage Blanvel to exit. He rejects Lemot’s politeness at offering to follow him in, his repetitious quirk forcing the compliment to be returned to Lemot.

    An example of this word for word repetition also occurs in Love’s Labour’s Lost when the King of Navarre welcomes the French Princess to his court. Berowne expresses recognition of Rosaline in the line, ‘Did not I dance with you in Brabant once?’ (2.1.114). Rosaline flirtatiously repeats the line back at him, word for word. The joke is, of course, that if he danced with her, she must have also danced with him, but Rosaline also uses the device as a clever way of wrong-footing Berowne. Chapman uses the same trick but turns it into a humour all of its own, a feature of Blanvel’s character. The incident is important in An Humorous Day’s Mirth since it illustrates at an early stage Lemot’s control over language, particularly other people’s. He chooses lines he knows Blanvel can and will repeat.

    160Lemot’s second predictive language game occurs in the ordinary, while the gallants are clustered together, playing cards as they wait for their dinner. When Lemot’s question prompts a predictable response from Rowley, the idea of the game is placed in Lemot’s mind. He boasts to Catalian, ‘I could have told thee before what he would have said’ (TLN 1238-1239). When Catalian denies the possibility of this sort of trick, Lemot is goaded into action. He remarks that just as he knows Rowley’s ‘gay outside’ (TLN 1220-1221) disguises his ‘foul and sweaty’ undergarments (TLN 1221), Lemot’s wit can permeate the entire assembled company: ‘Thou seest here’s a fine plump of gallants, such as think their wits singular, and their selves rarely accomplished. Yet to show thee how brittle their wits be, I will speak to them severally, and I will tell thee before what they shall answer me’ (TLN 1241-1246). Lemot prefaces his prediction of Rowley’s reply with ‘Whatsoever I say to Monsieur Rowley’ (TLN 1248). This is simply the linguistic magician’s sleight of hand, since Lemot carefully chooses what he says to each victim, in order to prompt the predicted response. Fortunately for Lemot the gallants’ and lords’ responses are characterised by their proverbial content, illustrating his comment on their ‘brittle wits’, which are founded on unoriginal stock phrases. Jaques’s entry at TLN 1285 conveniently ends the game, since Lemot has run out of specimens, and the new sport of concealing the King's party begins.

    The word games highlight Lemot’s dexterity with language in overt usage. More cunning is the way in which Lemot chooses language carefully when undertaking ordinary dialogue with other characters. The principle is very similar: a game is still being played, but it is a different type, prompting action and response rather than innocuous phrases. Of particular interest is the relationship between Lemot and each of the higher ranking women. The Countess is suspicious of Lemot but not clever enough to take his words at anything but face value. Lemot preys on the Countess’s jealousy of her younger husband and she responds as forecast:

    Lemot. Hark you, madam, have you no more care of the right of your husband, than to let him talk thus affectionately with another?
    Countess. Why he speaks not for himself, but for his cousin Colinet.
    Lemot. God’s my life! He tells you so. Nay, an these excuses may serve, I have done.
    Countess. By the mass, now I observe him, he looks very suspiciously indeed.
    (TLN 590-598)

    As well as placing pressure on the tense relationship between husband and wife, Lemot makes subtle but constant reference to the Countess’s old age, further heightening the gap between them. When Lemot refers to the ladies present as ‘passing lovely’ (TLN 476-477), the Countess comments on his flattering ways and is curtly reminded of her seniority when he explains he meant she was ‘passing from your loveliness’ (TLN 484). Again, in Scene 9, Lemot prefaces his information that Moren is at the ordinary with ‘that light hussy Martia’ (TLN 364-365) with a reference to the Countess’s age (TLN 1361). He continues by referring to her ‘motherly care’ (TLN 1366), pointing to her as a maternal, rather than wifely, figure to her husband. This is delivered as if a compliment, but is actually an anxiety-prompting comment, much as the apparently careless but actually careful comments of Iago fire Othello’s jealousy.

    Lemot’s contact with Martia lacks the acerbic scorn he pours on the Countess. In Scene 5 they engage in a quick-fire battle of wits, in which Martia demonstrates agility in punning on Lemot’s name and her knowledge of Latin. When his innuendo reaches sexually explicit territory, and he invites her to take him a hole lower (TLN 504), her response is to retreat: ‘Nay, sir, I’ll leave when I am well’ (TLN 513). He is the powerful commander of language and she goes only so far before backing down and acknowledging defeat. Lemot is then able to stand aside and talk with Martia, informing her of the planned trip to the ordinary, knowing she will agree. There is almost a sexual chemistry between the two, but his referral to her as a hussy in Scene 9 perhaps reveals disgust at her willingness to flirt with several men at once.

    In many ways Florila provides Lemot with his greatest challenge. Strictly directed by her religion, Florila represents the instantly recognisable Puritan. Lemot’s aim is primarily to incense her husband, but part of his motivation must also lie in his suspicion of Florila’s hypocrisy. Littering her language with Biblical references and pious sentiments, her Puritanism is also expressed through her humble clothing, since both Blanvel (TLN 118) and Labervele (TLN 232) refer to her milkmaid’s clothing. Just as Florila rejects Labervele’s suggestion that she wear a velvet hood (TLN 235), she also pounces on Catalian’s ‘idle words’ (TLN 281):

    ‘My ladyship’, and ‘my honour’! They be words which I must have you leave...’ My duty to you’, or ‘I desire you’, were a great deal better than ‘my ladyship’, or ‘my honour’.
    (TLN 280-283)

    165In his previous lines, Labervele has objected to Catalian’s presumptuous use of pronoun:

    Catalian. Why, sir, I have a message to my lady from Monsieur du Barte.
    Labervele. To ‘your lady’! Well, sir, speak your mind to ‘your lady’.
    (TLN 273-275)

    For Florila, the noun phrase is more objectionable than the pronoun, and she helpfully points Catalian to more appropriate exemplary phrases. His tongue-in-cheek response is to thank her for her ‘Christian admonition’ (TLN 284).

    Labervele and his wife have a curious relationship with words, which are feared as incitements to sin and temptation, even if the actual words used are harmless. For example, Labervele objects to Lemot craving a word with Florila, responding rather hysterically: ‘These words are intolerable, and she shall hear no more’ (TLN 317). Anxiety about speech and language, clothes and status, religious behaviour and sin is the manifestation of jealousy and tension within the inter-generational relationship. As it turns out, Labervele is right to be wary and Florila is correct to be guarded, since as soon as Lemot appears he penetrates her zealous piety.

    Lemot disguises his assault on Florila’s hypocrisy as a religious test. He has come to ‘prove your constancy’ (TLN 328). This immediately puts Florila at her ease and ensures that she will welcome his advances. Labervele, however, responds with exclamatory rage. When Florila initially balks at being kissed, Lemot persuades her that it is the surest test, a test she must undergo in order to claim herself chaste and honourable. Her invitation to explain the philosophical benefits of kissing effectively allows Lemot to woo Florila. He does so with a romantic description of ‘the stronger assault against your constancy’ (TLN 372), by penetration of her ears and lip with words and kisses. Lemot’s careful choice of erotic language quickly works on Florila, so that by the end of his speech she is convinced and urges him to kiss her with the phrase ‘prove my constancy’ (TLN 376).

    Once over the first hurdle, Lemot proceeds to the next, persuading Florila she should begin socialising in order to take the test to more extreme levels. This appeals both to her Puritan pride and her subdued desires, so that ‘this is perfect trial indeed’ (TLN 414). Lemot achieves what Labervele tentatively suggested, but withdrew from, that is, convincing Florila to put off her melancholy reclusiveness, prove her constancy, and pass ‘the full test of experiment’ (TLN 409-410).

    170This next stage of Florila’s test begins when Lemot returns in Scene 6. In order to encourage Florila to remove her final pompous barriers against him, Lemot must falsely convince her of his love for her: he swears ‘I am shot thorough with your love’ (TLN 706-707). Her guard comes down, she confesses her reciprocal love for him, and he is at last in a position to inform her of the ‘private meeting/ This day at Verone’s ordinary’ (TLN 750-751), a suggestion which would have been rejected outright without Lemot’s careful wooing of her suppressed spirits. Witnessing Florila’s false signs and her plan to lie about fasting inspires Lemot to play one final time with equivocal language before his exit. He informs Labervele he has ‘the constantest wife that ever –’ (TLN 764-765), before purposefully cutting himself off without finishing the sentence. This ensures that, without lying, Lemot is also reassuring Labervele of his wife's exemplary conduct, and is necessary to enable the grand 'ordinary' plan to come to fruition.

    Scene 12 demonstrates Lemot’s aptitude for lying as much as his linguistic skill. Faking a hurt right arm, Lemot invents the King’s danger in order to goad the Queen into finding her husband in the company of Martia. He also taunts the poor Queen with a misleading narrative, making her think the King no longer loves her and finds her abhorrent, while the next moment reassuring her that he is faithful. The Queen can be forgiven for assuming that when Lemot describes the King as blind, the reference is to visual deprivation, since Lemot’s description of the King’s condition involves him groping ‘about in corners,/ Void of the cheerful light should guide us all’ (TLN 1599-1600). Lemot employs duplicitous language as his major tool with which to expose the Queen’s folly. The King is not blind in sight, but in reason, ‘whose light you know/ Should cheerfully guide a worthy king’ (TLN 1615-1616).

    Lemot uses a similar duplicitous trick when misleading the Queen into thinking the King’s ‘instrument of procreation’ (TLN 1629), his penis, is about to be removed from his person. The Queen, like the Countess, is guilty of accepting Lemot’s equivocal language at face value. As has been mentioned earlier, the climax of Scene 12 is also graced by another of Lemot’s predictive word games, in which Foyes, Labervele and the Countess inquire about the identity of a daughter, a son and an earl, one of whom relates correctly to each of the inquirers.

    The influence Lemot has on other characters manifests itself in the colouring of their linguistic register with his specifically chosen words. When, in Scene 10, Foyes and the Countess bang on the doors of the ordinary, they cry out for ‘the strumpet’ and ‘this harlot’ (TLN 1391-1392). The reference is to the woman in the company of the King, Martia, but Foyes is obviously unaware of his daughter’s involvement. Labervele knocks at the door with his favourite cry, ‘puritans ... murderers’ (TLN 419 and 1389), which appellation is in stark contrast with the lords and gentlewomen who are actually inside, and include Labervele’s own wife. These assumptions are based on Lemot’s lies and expose the characters’ folly and gullibility.

    In 1606, an act was passed stating that if any persons ‘jestingly or prophanely speak or use the holy name of God or of Christ Jesus, ... [they] shall forfeit for every such offence by him or them committed Ten pounds’ [3 Jac.I.c.21]. It is obvious from the use of oaths that An Humorous Day’s Mirth predates this act. God and heaven are referred to most frequently, with examples including ‘By heaven’ (Lemot, TLN 60), ‘God save you’ (Colinet, TLN 170), ‘i’ God’s name’ (Labervele, TLN 243-244), ‘God’s my passion’ (Labervele, TLN 310), ‘God’s my life’ (Lemot, TLN 595), ‘By the mass’ (Countess, TLN 597), ‘by Jesus’ (Countess, TLN 605), ‘God’s precious coals’ (Dowsecer, TLN 921), ‘for God’s sake’ (Labesha, TLN 569), ‘in the name of God’ (Jaquena, TLN 1038-1039), ‘by the Lord’ (Berger, TLN 1128), and ‘’Sblood’ (Berger, TLN 1268). Oaths are employed to indicate surprise, haste and anger, as well as simply padding out everyday speech.[100]

    175Interestingly, for one with such a Christian wife, all Labervele’s oaths contain the word ‘God’ and all occur when he is most under threat in Scene 4. The care with which Lemot chooses his vocabulary is illustrated in Scene 5, when his increase in swearing mimics the oath-punctuated speech of the Countess, with whom he is in conversation. Presumably Lemot is matching her linguistic register in order to reassure her, increasing the likelihood of her believing what he has to say concerning her husband. He also uses oaths at this point to convey his feigned shock at her allowing Moren speak with Martia. In Scene 7, when Foyes exclaims ‘By’rlady’ (TLN 1008), Labesha, the hopeful prospective son-in-law, matches it with ‘By’rlord’ (TLN 1009). More oaths occur in Scene 8 than any other, possibly confirming the bad reputation of drinking dens. However, it would be careless to overlook the fact that this scene is one of the longest in the play, and is therefore more likely to contain more oaths, and is also a scene detailing extensive dramatic action, in turn prompting exclamatory language.

    Some characters have their own quirky, individual oaths, such as Labesha’s ‘By skies and stones’ (TLN 1356 and 437), and Labervele’s ‘God’s my passion’, used twice in Scene 4 (TLN 250 and 310). Perhaps the most gruesome oath, ’sblood, makes its first appearance in Berger’s mouth (TLN 1273), and, although he is noted for his chiding by Lemot (TLN 1268), Jaques (TLN 1338), Catalian (TLN 1545) and Lemot (TLN 1701) subsequently also use it in mildly exclamatory ways.