Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Man's Order & the Great Chain of Being

In Shakespeare's times, the movement of the heavenly bodies, their precise and their predictable courses, was taken quite seriously. Any irregularity in the heavens was usually interpreted as an omen of "unnatural" things to come. Hence, eclipses, comets, and other celestial aberrations, fascinated but unnerved the people.
The seasons of the year were attributed
special qualities, in continuous circular
repetitive movement. Here, however, they are
represented in a rectangle.
Choler (pronounced just like collar) distinctly means anger, just as sanguine clearly means cheerful, agreeable, and pleasant in Shakespeare's writing.  Some people actually still believe the four humors - you may recall young Victor Frankenstein did so initially. "Sensible" people such as Edmund, in King Lear, dismissed a different popular belief, astrology, a remnant of medieval times, as utter nonsense. Many in Shakespeare's audience would have disagreed with Edmund.
This is a contemporary, somewhat distorted, diagram of the four humors.


  1. King Lear is definitely in the choleric secession! But I think it's kind of funny how crazy he is. If he wasn't a king with constituents that is mental instability would not be a problem. I think most people that reach such an old age start to act the same way. My great grandmother, for example, was even worst than King Lear.

  2. I agree with Yenifer. I also believe that King Lear leans more towards the choleric side of the chart. However, I believe as the story progresses, he will actually touch all four of the different types of humor. Also, I think that Regan and Goneril leans more towards the Phelgmatic side and Cordelia is on the Sanguine side. This chart makes me wonder... what type of humor do each of us have?

  3. Two years ago during summer school I had to read about the science of the four humors. Back then people believed that differnt parts of the body would control the different humors. They believed that the way people felt was connected to certain body parts. For example if somebody seemed aggressive and impulsive, doctors would perform surgery on the body part they belived was connected to that feeling. They also thought certain foods would help "cure" them from feeling that way.
    But anyway, back tto the book. I agree with Yenifer that King Lear is a part if the choleric section because of how aggresive, excitable and impulsive he is. I think Cordelia and Kent are a part of the phlegmatic side because they are both thoughtful and even-tempered.

  4. King Lear is a very.. unique character. I do come to believe as Alyssa says, that everyone has different humors inside of them, like how we have different moods. King Lear makes very aggressive and crazy decisions which shows us what kind of person he is by the impulsive decisions he makes. No one can really stop him from thinking that certain way. However, the other characters aren't as "harsh" as he is.

  5. I feel as if King Lear had somehow fully entered each part of the circle within the whole play itself!

    Alyssa brought a whole new life to King Lear with her comment on what she read! I agree with her decision on placing Cordellia and Kent in the same part of the circle
    "Cordelia and Kent are a part of the phlegmatic side because they are both thoughtful and even-tempered."

    Pretty amazing that somehow these are the two people who actually show true love and devotion for the King Lear, and yet one (kent) is an old man, and the other (Cordellia) is young and radient!

  6. I believe King Lear falls into the choleric session. I agree with Brandon I believe during the play King Lear will fall under all the sessions. King Lear is a complex character,that has all these different emotions.Through his madness Lear breaks down the false illusions of his courtly world.