Comedy of Humours: A Not So Funny Collection of Resources

Comedy of humours is an historical form of comedy linked to Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson in such works as Everyman in His Humour (1598) and Everyman out of His Humour (1599). It is based on the premise that the human body consists of four liquids – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – all representing a different type of “humour” (disposition). This in turn affected the types of characters represented in the drama. The concept of the four humours, however, was not Jonson’s idea and can be traced back to the works of Aritophanes in ancient Greece. On this page is a curated collection of comedy of humours resources. – Justin Cash


Comedy of Humours Resources

Excellent explanation of the four types of humours and their connection Shakespeare’s contemporary Ben Jonson.

Each humour has its own function: blood makes one excessively optimistic; phlegm makes one excessively cowardly; yellow bile makes one excessively violent; and black bile makes one excessively sad.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)

Useful investigation into the Elizabethan use of the word “humour” and Ben Jonson’s interpretation of the word.

Useful summary of the characteristics of this form of comedy.

Interesting disucssion about Shakespeare’s links to Ben Jonson.

Useful definition of this popular form of Elizabethan comedy.

Comedy of Humours Free Resources

Comprehensive biography of Elizabethan playwright Ben Jonson and his works.

Multiple definitions from the Library of Congress database.

Brief entry from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Article about the comedy of humours in Ben Jonson’s play Volpone.


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