Gail Kern Paster

in Humoring the Body

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780226648477
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226648484 | DOI:

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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The classical doctrine of the four humors gave playwrights, including William Shakespeare, a theory of personality, behavior, status, gender, age, and ethnicity that had the distinct advantage of being rooted in what they believed to be indisputable facts about the human body and its relation to the natural world. As one of the six Galenic non-naturals that made up an individual subject's specific physical environment, the passions served as a powerful, if broad, focus for thinking about the relations between inside and outside, between bodily interiority and the phenomenal object world, between self and other even when the other is a servant, a woman, or a cat. That we identify these emotions as identical to our own, though often expressed in an estranging discourse, speaks in part to the long dominance of psychological materialism and the historically specific bodily contents that it presupposed.

Keywords: passions; humors; William Shakespeare; human body; natural world; emotions; self; psychological materialism; physical environment

Chapter.  1551 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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