Sunday, April 26, 2015
In Renaissance & Elizabethan time, the humours or complexions generally had become standardized as follows:
Sanguine = amorous, happy, generous, optimistic, irresponsible
Choleric = violent, vengeful, short-tempered, ambitious
Phlegmatic = sluggish, pallid, cowardly, sometimes lazy
Melancholic = introspective, sentimental, sometimes lazy
George Glover c 1630 The Fowre Complexions Choller
In Renaissance & Elizabethan times, many believed that the choleric person was fast, unbalanced, & excitable with mental processes which were fast & intense. She would exhibit impulsiveness, temper, irritability, expressive facial expressions, hurried speech, abrupt gestures, & unrestrained movement. Feelings in persons of choleric temperament were thought to be pronounced & sometimes moods might change dramatically. She worked with passion, & while showing impulsiveness, she could overcome difficulties. But a person with choleric temperament could quickly become exhausted in a task & then might show a sharp decline in activity. Being too straightforward, short tempered, harsh, & intolerant could make chlorics difficult & unpleasant.
George Glover c 1630 The Fowre Complexions Melancholly
In Renaissance & Elizabethan times, many believed that a melancholic person had slow mental processes. Prolonged & severe stress caused people of this temperament to become passive. Feelings & emotional states in melancholic temperament emerged slowly. A melancholic was easily vulnerable. They were prone to isolation & loneliness, avoided contact with strangers, & were uneasy in a new environment. But in a familiar & relaxed environment, melancholic people felt comfortable & worked very efficiently.
George Glover c 1630 The Fowre Complexions Phlegmatic
In Renaissance & Elizabethan times, many believed that a phlegmatic person was slow, calm, unhurried, & balanced showing thoroughness, thoughtfulness, & perseverance. Mental processes of a phlegmatic proceeded slowly & were expressed weakly. In relations with people, a phlegmatic was calm, moderately sociable, & stable. A phlegmatic was not easily ruffled or hurt emotionally. The phlegmatic temperament could easily maintain stamina, composure, calmness. Sometimes a person of this temperament might develop an indifferent attitude to work & to life around them.
George Glover c 1630 The Fowre Complexions Sanguine
In Renaissance & Elizabethan times, many believed that a sanguine person was cheerful but did not like monotonous work. She controlled her emotions easily, quickly assimilated into a new environment, & actively came into contact with others. Her speech was loud, fast, & was accompanied by distinct expressive facial expressions & body gestures. But this temperament was characterized by some duality. If the stimuli were changing rapidly, the sanguine state manifested itself as a person of action, active, energetic. If a task was of long duration, & monotonous, the sanguine lost interest & appeared indifferent, bored, & lethargic. A sanguine quickly showed feelings of joy, sorrow, affection & hostility, but all these manifestations of her feelings were unstable. The sanguine mood changed rapidly, but usually a good mood would prevail.
Jean Leblond 1605-1666 Leonide Bergere; print; Jeremias Falck (Print made by); Paris three-quarter length female shepherdess, stepping to right; a quiver slung across her back, holding a bow in her right hand. This woman has spectacular pearls in her hair, at her neck & wrist. (ed. - This shepherdess looks like a depiction of Diana.)
William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) The Foure Complexions 1662 - Phlegmatic
Sir Thomas Elyot's (c 1490-1546) Castel of Helthe, 1541, "Complexion is a combynation of two dyvers qualities of the foure elements in one bodye, as hotte and drye of the Fyre: hotte and inoyste of the Ayre."
William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) The Foure Complexions 1636 - Melancholy
Bartholomeus Anglicus (Bartholomew of England) (c 1203–1272), Batman vppon Bartholome, "Mans bodie is made of foure Elements, that is to wit, of Earth, Water, Fire and Aire: euery seuerall hath his proper qualities. Foure be called the first and principall qualityes, that is heate, cold, drie, and moist: they be called the first qualities, because they slide first from the Elements into the things that be made of Elements."
William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) The Foure Complexions 1636 - Sanguine
Sir John Harington's (1561-1612) Englishmans Doctor, or the Schoole of Salerne, 1608, "The watry flegmatique are fayre and white; The sanguin, roses joynd to lillies bright; The collericke, more red; the melancholy, Alluding to their name, are swart and colly."
William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) The Foure Complexions - Chollerick
From William Shakespeare's (1564-1616) Love's Labour's Lost Act 1, Scene 2
Boy, A Woman, Master.
Brag. Of what complexion?
Boy. Of all the foure, or the three, or the two, or one of the foure.
Brag. Tell me precifely of what complexion?
Boy. Of the sea-water Greene sir.
Brag. Is that one of the foure complexions?
Boy. As I haue read sir, and the beft of them too.
Brag. Greene indeed is the colour of Lovers: but to haue a Love of that colour, methinkes Sampfon had small reason for it. He surely affected her for her wit.
Boy. It was so sir, for she had a greene wit.
The Four Complexions After Georg Pencz 1530-62 Choleric
The Four Houmors or Complexions evolved from a theory that the human body was filled with 4 basic substances, called 4 humors; which are in balance, when a person is healthy. The “humours” gave off vapors which ascended to the brain; an individual’s personal characteristics (physical, mental, moral) were explained by his or her “temperament,” or the state of theat person’s “humours.” The perfect temperament resulted when no one of these humours dominated. All diseases & disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these 4 humors. These deficits could be caused by vapors which were breathed in or absorbed by the body. The 4 humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, & blood. Greeks & Romans, & the later Muslim & Western European medical establishments that adopted & adapted classical medical philosophy, believed that each of these humors would wax & wane in the body, depending on diet & activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality & physical health would be affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water & air; earth predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, & all four elements present in the blood.
The Four Complexions After Georg Pencz 1530-62 Flegmatic
Greek philosopher & pupil of Aristotle, Theophrastus, (c 372 bc-c 287) & others developed a set of characters based on the humors. Those with too much blood were sanguine. Those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic. Those with too much yellow bile were choleric, & those with too much black bile were melancholic. The idea of human personality based on humors contributed to the character eventually became part of the literature of the day. By 1600, it was common to use “humour” as a means of classifying characters; knowledge of the humours is not only important to understanding later medieval work, but essential to interpreting some Elizabethan drama.
The Four Complexions After Georg Pencz 1530-62 Melancholy
Through the neo-classical revival in Europe, the humor theory dominated medical practice, & the theory of humoral types made periodic appearances in drama. Complexions engaged the attention of philosophers & musical theorists from ancient times right through to the Renaissance & beyond, in relation to the most favourable balancing of the 'qualities' or elements in order to heal and invigorate the soul: from Pythagoras and the musical theorist Aristoxenus, through Plato's dialogue Phaedo, Aristotle, Saint Augustine in his thesis on music, & Aquinas; & into the Florentine Renaissance, Marsilio Ficino in his work on the immortality of the soul, the Theologia Platonica.
The Four Complexions After Georg Pencz 1530-62 Sanguine
Many references to complexions filter through into Shakespeare's plays and sonnets derived from this body of thought; particularly in the description of important characters, and to the power of music above all to 'charm the savage breast', adjust the elements, and restore the equilibrium and balance, the 'harmony' of the soul: his characters call for music and are spellbound or restored by it, and in elevated mood, may hear it in the air, or sense its immortal harmonies everywhere.