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For centuries Shakespeares tragedies have swept audiences up in dramatic intensity achieving what Aristotle described as catharsis the purging of emotional tension through drama They draw us into the psyche of the protagonist--the angst of Hamlet the guilt-ridden soul of the Macbeths and the torment of Lear--with an evocative language of feeling and Shakespeares use of a most powerful image the human mind in a state of madness What drove Shakespeares characters into insanity Certainly it can be argued that outside influences played their part In the case of Othello the scheming Iago used his cunning and manipulation to lead his victim into self-doubt and despair The same could be said for King Lear who was driven to madness by his ungrateful daughters Did Shakespeares tragic protagonists however have some pre-disposed disorder The answers could be in a many centuries old belief that the human body is driven by a state of chemical balance An imbalance of chemistry could effect the mood of the individual and if not corrected could lead to permanent illness madness and or death Body Chemistry Having a Sense of Humors The theory of body chemistry or humors theory goes back to the 4th century BC There were earlier cultures in Egypt and Mesepotamia which fluctuated between natural and supernatural explanations of disease but it took Empedocles to develop theories based on four basic elements and characterized by a quality and a corresponding body humor or liquid Element Quality Humor Fire Heat Blood in the heart Earth Dryness Phlegm in the brain Water Moisture Yellow bile in the liver Air Cold Black bile in the spleen These humors were also tied into the seasons as well Black bile was considered to be a part of autumn blood was associated with spring phlegm with winter and summer with yellow bile Each humor was identified with its corresponding season due to the belief that each humor contained certain qualities These
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