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April 20, 1964

The Humors: Some Psychological Aspects of Shakespeare's Tragedies

Author Affiliations

Morgantown, WVa

Department of English, West Virginia University.

JAMA. 1964;188(3):259-262. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060290063017

FOR MORE THAN a thousand years, the humoral theory, derived from Aristotle and Galen, dominated medical and psychological thought. The body and mind were supposed to be ruled by four humors which, in equilibrium, brought perfect health; but the predominance of any one, whether from birth or age or circumstances, produced a certain type of physique and a cast of mind appropriate to certain activities and to a certain social status. The wrong humor in a given situation invited tragedy, for each humor belonged with certain stars and planets. The sanguine humor (blood) was under the astral influence of the planet Jupiter, and was thought proper to princes, to accepted lovers, and to the jovial and the fortunate; but illchance could easily sour it to melancholy. The phlegmatic humor under Venus was thought proper to women, children, and voluptuaries, and under the moon (which was regarded as a planet in

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