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The Elizabethan Era
The Elizabethan era refers to the time period of Queen Elizabeth I's reign, from 1558 to 1603. The Elizabethan era is also known as "the age of Shakespeare" or "the Renaissance".
It was the height of the English Renaissance, which meant:
The Four Humours
In ancient Greek and Roman times, there was a medical belief that the body consisted of 4 humors or fluids. These humors were: blood, bile, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm.
It was thought that when these four humors were in balance, a person was healthy. A surplus or imbalance in one of these fluids would not only affect their physical health, but also their personality and complexion.
This belief became popular once in again in medical practice during the Elizabethan era. Practices such as bloodletting stemmed from this theory.
|Humour||Element||Organ||Ancient Name||Ancient Characteristics|
|Blood||air||liver||sanguine||cheerful, courageous, agreeable or lustful|
|Yellow bile (Choler)||fire||gall bladder||choleric||prone to anger, rashness and pride|
|Black bile (Melancholy)||earth||spleen||melancholic||introspective, morose, sleepless, irritable|
|Phlegm||water||brain/lungs||phlegmatic||cowardly, dull, pale in complexion|
You will notice that in many works by Shakespeare, he refers to
these humors. For example, Lady Macbeth says:
"Yet who would have thought / the old man to have had so much blood in him" (V.1.44-45)
This reference to blood implies Duncan's sanguine personality of being kind and joyful. The four temperaments, clockwise from top right: choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic
Many Elizabethan works also mark various festivities that we don't necessarily celebrate today. For example, the Shakespeare work Twelfth Night marks the first Monday after twelfth night of January, a celebration of returning to work after Christmas holidays. June 21st is known as Midsummer, which is the main focus in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Weddings were highly regarded and so feasts were often a large part of the celebration - this is notable in Shakespeare plays such as As You Like It.
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