The Comedy of Humors

What is The Comedy of Humors in literature?

“The Comedy of Humours” is a type of comedy that emerged in early modern England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and is characterized by its focus on the behaviour and personality traits of the individual characters. The term “humour” referred to the belief that the human body was composed of four fluids, or humour, which influenced a person’s physical and emotional characteristics.

In the Comedy of Humours, characters were often presented as embodying a particular humour, such as choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, or melancholic, which influenced their behaviour and interactions with others. The plays often focused on the clashes and conflicts that arose when characters with different senses of humour came into contact with each other.

The Comedy of Humours was seen as a departure from the more traditional forms of comedy, which focused more on satire and social criticism. The genre was popularized by playwrights such as Ben Jonson, who wrote several plays in the style, including “Every Man in His Humour” and “Volpone”.

example of the Comedy of Humours in literature:

In “Volpone” by Ben Jonson, the title character is presented as a wealthy and cunning man who takes pleasure in deceiving others. He is described as embodying the humour of “voluptuousness”, or excessive indulgence, and is contrasted with other characters who embody different senses of humour, such as the avaricious “graft” and the melancholic “sorrow”. The play explores the themes of greed, deception, and the corrupting influence of wealth, and is notable for its complex characterizations and satirical commentary on Elizabethan society.

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