During the Renaissance, philosophers and poets became more and more interested in the working of the mind--epistemology and theology were the forerunners of modern psychology: the argument from analogy was in full force. The sources for this material will vary, and we will begin with a classical orientation using Plato. The Dialogues will be Phaedrus and Ion:



Plato speaks of four kinds of madness that may be appropriate for Shakespeare and the Renaissance:

Premise : " reality the greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven sent."

Type I: Prophecy: "It was when they were mad that...Delphi...achieved so much for which both states and individuals in Greece are thankful. When sane they did little or was because they held madness to be a valuable gift when due to divine dispensation that they named that art as they did...manic."

Type II: Divine Healing: "...when grievous maladies and afflictions have beset certain families by reason of some ancient sin, madness has appeared among them, and breaking out into prophecy has secured relief by finding the means thereto, namely by recourse to prayer and worship, and in consequence thereof rites and means of purification were established, and the sufferer was brought out of danger, alike and for the future. Thus did madness secure, for him that was maddened aright and possessed, deliverance from his troubles."

Type III: Love: " is...[a sort of madness]...a gift of the gods, fraught with the highest bliss.

Type IV: Poetic: "...there is a form of possession or madness, of which the muses are the source. This seizes a tender, virgin soul and stimulates it to rapt passionate expression, especially in Iyric poetry, glorifying the countless mighty deeds of ancient times for the instruction of posterity. But if any man come to the gates of poetry without the madness of the muses, persuaded that skill alone will make him a good poet, then shall he and is works of sanity with him be brought to nought by the poetry of madness..." (from ION) "...for the craft of poetry is light and winged and holy, and he is not capable of poetry until he is inspired by the gods and out of his mind and there is no reason in him, Until he gets into this state, any man is powerless to produce poetry and to prophesy. They write [about] Homer, by divine gift...the poets are nothing by the interpreters of the gods, each one under the influence of the divinity..."

THE REPUBLIC , of course, offers another view of MADNESS. The "Philosopher King," having left the cave and experienced the "good" and then being forced to return to enlighten those still "in chains, " will naturally be regarded as mad by the prisoners, those yet to experience conversion:

[Public reaction to Socrates' notion that the rulers of the ideal state must be philosophers:]

... Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, --nor the human race, as I believe, --and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing. Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in a moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you might and main, before you know where you are, intending to do heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an answer, and put yourself in motion, you will be prepared by their fine wits,' and no mistake...

[The cave Allegory:] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in an underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets. I see. And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent. You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners. Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave? True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads? And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows? Yes, he said. And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them? Very true. And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow? No question, he replied. To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images. That is certain. And now look again, and see what will naturally follow it' the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him? Far truer. And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him? True, he now And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities. Not all in a moment, he said. He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day? Certainly. Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is. Certainly. He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold? Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him. And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the cave and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them? Certainly, he would. And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer, Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner? Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

[Reaction to the Philosopher King:]

Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness? To be sure, he said. And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death. No question, he said. This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed. I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you. Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted. Yes, very natural. And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice? Anything but surprising, he replied.

[Plato argues in the Republic that there is a correspondence between the three elements of the soul, and the state:

Macrocosmic and microcosmic "insanity" happen when there is an imbalance:]

But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being
concerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward,
which is the true self and concern of man: for the just man does
not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one
another, or any of them to do the work of others, --he sets in order
his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at
peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three
principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and
middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals --when he
has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become
one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds
to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the
treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private
business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and
co-operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action,
and the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at
any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the
opinion which presides over it ignorance.
You have said the exact truth, Socrates.
Very good; and if we were to affirm that we had discovered the
just man and the just State, and the nature of justice in each of
them, we should not be telling a falsehood?
Most certainly not.
May we say so, then?
Let us say so.
And now, I said, injustice has to be considered.
Must not injustice be a strife which arises among the three
principles --a meddlesomeness, and interference, and rising up of a
part of the soul against the whole, an assertion of unlawful
authority, which is made by a rebellious subject against a true
prince, of whom he is the natural vassal, --what is all this confusion
and delusion but injustice, and intemperance and cowardice and
ignorance, and every form of vice?
Exactly so.
And if the nature of justice and injustice be known, then the
meaning of acting unjustly and being unjust, or, again, of acting
justly, will also be perfectly clear?
What do you mean? he said.
Why, I said, they are like disease and health; being in the soul
just what disease and health are in the body.
How so? he said.
Why, I said, that which is healthy causes health, and that which
is unhealthy causes disease.
And just actions cause justice, and unjust actions cause injustice?
That is certain.
And the creation of health is the institution of a natural order and
government of one by another in the parts of the body; and the
creation of disease is the production of a state of things at variance
with this natural order?
And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural
order and government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and
the creation of injustice the production of a state of things at
variance with the natural order?
Exactly so, he said.
Then virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul, and
vice the disease and weakness and deformity of the same?
And do not good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to
Still our old question of the comparative advantage of justice and
injustice has not been answered: Which is the more profitable, to be
just and act justly and practice virtue, whether seen or unseen of
gods and men, or to be unjust and act unjustly, if only unpunished and
In my judgment, Socrates, the question has now become ridiculous. We
know that, when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no longer
endurable, though pampered with all kinds of meats and drinks, and
having all wealth and all power; and shall we be told that when the
very essence of the vital principle is undermined and corrupted,
life is still worth having to a man, if only he be allowed to do
whatever he likes with the single exception that he is not to
acquire justice and virtue, or to escape from injustice and vice;
assuming them both to be such as we have described?
Yes, I said, the question is, as you say, ridiculous. Still, as we
are near the spot at which we may see the truth in the clearest manner
with our own eyes, let us not faint by the way.
Certainly not, he replied.
Come up hither, I said, and behold the various forms of vice,
those of them, I mean, which are worth looking at.
I am following you, he replied: proceed.
I said, The argument seems to have reached a height from which, as
from some tower of speculation, a man may look down and see that
virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable; there being
four special ones which are deserving of note.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean, I replied, that there appear to be as many forms of the soul
as there are distinct forms of the State.
How many?
There are five of the State, and five of the soul, I said.
What are they?
The first, I said, is that which we have been describing, and
which may be said to have two names, monarchy and aristocracy,
accordingly as rule is exercised by one distinguished man or by many.
True, he replied.
But I regard the two names as describing one form only; for
whether the government is in the hands of one or many, if the
governors have been trained in the manner which we have supposed,
the fundamental laws of the State will be maintained.
That is true, he replied.


Unlike his science, Aristotle's works on the "microcosm": Ethics, Metaphysics, The Soul, The Categories etc. are still highly influential today, and constitute the summit of Greek classical thinking. Two short excerpts follow:

from the Categories 10a.

[1] Madness and irascibility and so on are cases in point. For it is on account of such things that we call a man mad or irascible. Likewise, distractions of mind, which, although not innate in themselves, yet arise from a certain concomitance of some other elements in him and seem to be either enduring or at least very hard to remove, are denominated qualities also. For people are called such and such on account of conditions like these. On the contrary, those which arise from some source that is readily healed we shall call by the name of affections, such as being somewhat angry, when vexed. For a man is not known as bad-tempered from being, when vexed, somewhat angry. We say `Such a man is affected.' Such states are affections, not qualities. Of quality the fourth kind consists of the forms and the figures of things; add to these also crookedness, straightness and all other qualities like them. For things are defined by these also as being of such and such nature. And things have a definite nature by being `triangular,' `quadrangular,' by being `straight,' `crooked' and so on. In virtue, indeed, of its figure or shape is each thing qualified. Rare and dense, rough and smooth, while appearing at first sight to indicate quality, are foreign, in fact, from that class. They will rather be found to denote a particular position of the parts. Thus we call a thing dense, when the parts that compose it are closely compacted, but rare, when those parts have interstices; rough, when some parts are projecting, but smooth, when the surface is smooth, upon which, so to speak, lie those parts. These are the four kinds of quality. Others there possibly may be, but these are those strictly so called. Qualities, then, are those mentioned. The things that derive their names from them or depend in some other way on them are said to be things qualified in some definite manner or other. In most--indeed, nearly all--cases the names of the qualified things are derived from the names of the qualities. From `whiteness,' from `grammar,' from `justice,' we have `white,' `grammatical,' `just.' So with all other similar cases. Sometimes, however, the qualities having no names of their own, no derivative names can exist. Thus the name of the runner or boxer, so called from an innate capacity,

from The Soul:

...Imagination is different from either perceiving or discursive thinking, though it is not found without sensation, or judgment without it. That this activity is not the same kind of thinking as judgment is obvious. For imagining lies within our own power whenever we wish (e.g. we can call up a picture, as in the practice of mnemonics by the use of mental images), but in forming opinions we are not free: we cannot escape the alternative of falsehood or truth. Further, when we think something to be fearful or threatening, emotion is immediately produced, and so too with what is encouraging; but when we merely imagine, we remain unaffected as persons who are looking at a painting of some dreadful or encouraging scene...thinking is different from perceiving and is held to be in part imagination, in part judgment. We must therefore first mark off the sphere of imagination and then speak of judgment: It then imagination is that in virtue of which an image arises for use, excluding metaphorical use of the term, is it a single faculty or disposition relative to images in virtue of which we discriminative and are either in error or not? The faculties in virtue of which we do this are sense, opinion, science, intelligence.

from The Nicomachean Ethics:

But though our present account is of this nature we must give what help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.

Again, it is possible for men to 'have knowledge' in yet another way besides those just discussed; for even in the state of having knowledge without exercising it we can observe a distinction: a man may in a sense both have it and not have it; for instance, when he is asleep, or mad, or drunk. But persons under the influence of passion are in the same condition; for it is evident that anger, sexual desire, and certain other passions, actually alter the state of the body, and in some cases even cause madness. It is clear therefore that we must pronounce the unrestrained to 'have knowledge' only in the same way as men who are asleep or mad or drunk.


Renaissance Poetry / Drama and Insanity--excerpts from Shakespeare:


Lovers and madman have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell could hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth , from heaven to earth,
And as the imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns and shapes them and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear."
But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy..."

from TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (Shakespeare's play on the Trojan War)

The speaker is Cassandra, who interestingly enough was given the gift of prophecy only to have as a punishment for spurning Apollo's love, all of her predictions come true but never be believed. She went mad. Here she comments on the death of HECTOR)...

...Oh farewell, Dear Hector!
Look how thou diest...
Hark how Troy roars, how Hecuba cries out!
How poor Andromache shrills her dolors forth!
Behold, distraction, frenzy, and amazement
Like witless antics one another meet,
And all cry, "Hector, Hector, Hector!"
(V,iii,86 ff)

Madness and modern psychology. schizophrenia (splitting of the mind)

1. disordered thinking--lack of coherence--thought patterns shift
2. delusions--false beliefs--fear of being spied on
3. hallucinations--hear voices, see non-existent things, get commands
4. emotional behavior--inappropriate changes in mood, dressing in a bizarre fashion, talking incoherently

[Note; medical science does not associate this illness with the common perception of multiple-personality disorder. Schizophrenia is characterized by distortions in perceptions and feelings, and relationships with the world around them..]

bipolar disorder (manic-depressive)


1. increased energy inappropriate elation increased sex
2. dangerous high-risk activities incoherent speech disconnected thought 3. irritable feeling all- powerful paranoia rage denial hallucinations (believing to be in touch with aliens, God, )

Depressive :

1. sleeping excessive crying thoughts of death or suicide
2. loss of interest in pleasurable activities inability to concentrate
3. feelings of despair slowed thinking

Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy considered one of the definitive Renaissance texts on the subject will be studied next: Note that the chain of being idea exists "within" the body:

Click here for additional commentary on Burton.


The four humors were considered important in determining how an individual thought. Corresponding to the elements, as noted earlier, these humors were properties of matter as they existed in the body. The descriptions below indicate the positive and negative effects of these humors. Conventional moral and psychological wisdom dictated that they had to be kept in perfect balance by reason in harmony with God's will, but the ideas discussed herein, especially demoniac possession and political ambition, suggest that one humor could "dominate" the rest, thereby causing illness, leading to insanity, murder and death. Although a contemporary audience need not become too immersed in these particulars to appreciate the universality of Shakespeare, a knowledge of how he understood the human mind to operate contributes not only to an understanding of the plays, but also -- and this is most remarkable -- how he transcended the jargon of the day and dramatized psychological truths that experts from Freud to the present are only just discovering to be true.

Characteristics of the humors:

NOTE: There are many sources that describe the humors. If you are working, for example, on a term paper topic dealing with Renaissance psychology, it is not sufficient to cite this page since it is only a summary. You will have to consult primary source materials from which this information is derived. See:

Burton, Robert. Anatomy of Melancholy.

Bright, T. Treatise of Melancholy

Choleric: Positive qualities-determination, self-discipline, decisiveness, ability to take risks, The ability to organize others to action, capacity to stay at something until finished, In short, the choleric temperament is geared toward leadership, Negative qualities--impetuosity, bad temper, pride, the tendency to bully others in order to get the job done, the tendency to use others, The secret of maturity is to learn to regard people as just as important as the job to be done. The choleric will be immature as long as he considers a given task to be more important than those involved.

Sanguine: Positive qualities-friendliness, warmth, wit, sensitivity to others,appreciation for beauty, vitality, capacity to bounce back with a joke and a smile. Sanguines are geared for work with people--as salesmen, entertainers or counselors.Many artists and musicians are Sanguine. Negative qualities-Tendency to be superficial, to shy away from hard work or from something that requires a great deal of perseverance, a tendency to be moody and easily discouraged, a tendency to be easily hurt by rejection, over-concern by such externals as dress and appearance. This person will be mature to the degree that he or she learns to live by intellect as well as feelings and avoids the temptation to take the easy way out of a tough situation by a laugh and a joke rather than facing it honestly.

Melancholic: Positive qualities-an ability to concentrate, to feel deeply, to go to the heart of things, to stay something a long time, to remain calm in adversity, to be peaceful, Usually the melancholic is above average in intelligence. The melancholic is often scholarly type who enjoys working with ideas more than with people. In many ways he or she is the opposite of the sanguine, Most great philosophers and poets had, to a large degree, this temperament. Negative qualities-a tendency to moodiness and depression excessive shyness, the ability to harbor grudges for a long time, to brood, to become-intellectually proud and to regard others as inferior. The mature melancholic has been able to direct his capacity for deep feeling and deep thinking toward the service of others instead of using it to feed the ego.

Phlegmatic. Positive qualities-loyalty, the ability to stay at boring tasks, gentleness and warmth, a generally calm, easy going disposition, The phlegmatic makes a good follower and helper and can work well in duties that require a lot of routine, Negative qualities-a. strong tendency toward laziness,. at his worst, the phlegmatic could become something of a vegetable, content to eat and sleep and let the rest of the world go by. Maturity depends to a large degree on the ability to combine his temperament with some of the positive qualities of the other temperaments, If one remained a pure phlegmatic, it is doubtful that he or she would reach full maturity.



(Brain) = "Counselor to heart" [AS] HEAD (soul/wisdom) reason

(Heart) = "King keeping court" [AS] CHEST (king of the body) seat of passion

(Liver- spleen) = "Nourishment" [AS] BELLY (choleric [anger] melancholic)



generic word meaning element of life = heat. We need to speak of three "Souls" noting how they determine human behavior. There are different "kinds" of souls presented here from the least to the most important: 1. VEGETAL SOUL, 2. SENSITIVE SOUL AND 3. RATIONAL SOUL:

1. TheVEGETAL SOUL is common to plants, and simply denotes that plants are alive, but lower, of course, than man and animals on the chain. They have "heat" and can grow.

2. The SENSITIVE SOUL is common to animals and has an APPREHENDING power and a MOVING power:

A. APPREHENDING power allows the organism to perceive reality in the nominalistic sense. It has two modes: INWARD and OUTWARD. an inner sense which doth more fully examine the species perceived by common sense, of things present or absent, and keeps them longer, recalling them to mind again, or making new of his own. In time of sleep, this faculty is free, and many times conceives strange, stupend, absurd shapes, as in sick men we commonly observe... its object [is] all the species communicated to him by the common sense, by comparison of which he feigns infinite other unto himself. In melancholy men, this faculty is most powerful and strong, and often hurts, producing many monstrous and prodigious things, especially if it be stirred by some terrible object, presented to it from common sense or memory, In poets and painters, imagination forcibly works as appears by the several fictions...I will only now point at the wonderful effects and power of it; which, as it is eminent in all, so most especially it rageth in melancholy persons, in keeping the species of objects so long, mistaking, amplifying them by continual and strong meditation, until at length it produceth in some parties real effects, causeth this and many other maladies. And although this phantasy of ours be a subordinate faculty to reason, and should be ruled by it, yet in many men, through inward or outward distemperatures, defect of organs, which are unapt or hindered, or otherwise contaminated, it is likewise unapt, hindered, and hurt. This we see verified in sleepers, which, by reason of humours, and concourse or vapours troubling the phantasy, imagine many times absurd and prodigious things, and in such as are troubled with incubus or witch-ridden (as we call it); if they lie on their backs, they suppose an old woman rides and sits so hard upon them, that they are almost stifled for want of breath, when there is nothing offends but a concourse of bad humours, which trouble the phantasy. This is likewise evident in such as walk in the night in their sleep, and do strange feats: these vapours move the phantasy, the phantasy the appetite, which, moving the animal spirits, causeth the body to walk up and down, as if they were awake. Many times such men, when they come to themselves, tell strange things of Heaven and Hell, what visions they have seen. Those common apparitions... reduceth, (as I have formerly said), with all those tales of Witches' progresses, dancing, riding, transformations, operations, etc. to the force of imagination and the Devil's illusions. The like effects almost are to be seen in such as are awake: how many chimeras, anticks, golden mountains, and castles in the air, do they build unto thermselves! I appeal to painters, mechanicians, mathematicians. Some ascribe all vices to a false and corrupt imagination, anger, revenge, lust, ambition, covetousness, which prefers falsehood before that which is right and good, deluding the soul with false shews and suppositions. But most especially in passions and affections, it shews strange and evident effects: what will not a fearful man conceive in the dark? What strange forms of Bugbears, Devils, Witches, Goblins Lavater imputes the greatest cause of spectrums, and the like apparitions, to fear, which, above all other passions, begets the strongest imagination and so likewise love, sorrow, joy, etc. Some will laugh, weep, sigh, groan, blush, tremble, sweat at such things as are suggested unto them by their imagination...

That some are turned to wolves, from men to women, and women again to men (which is constantly believed) to the same imagination; or from men to asses, dogs, or any other shapes; that melancholy men and sick men, conceive so many phantastical visions, apparitions to themselves, and have such absurd suppositions, as that they are Kings, Lords, cocks, bears, apes, owls; they are heavy, light, transparent, great and little, senseless and dead can be imputed to naught else, but to a corrupt, false, and violent imagination. It works not in sick and melancholy men only, but even most forcibly sometimes in such as are sound: it makes them suddenly sick, and alters their temperature in an instant. And sometimes a strong conceit or apprehension will take away diseases: in both kinds it will produce real effects. Men, if they see but another man tremble, giddy, or sick of some fearful disease, their apprehension and fear is so strong in this kind, that they will have the same disease. Or if by some soothsayer, wiseman, fo:rtune-teller, or physician, they be told they shall have such a disease, they will so seriously apprehend it that they will instantly labour of it. Sometimes death itself is called by force of phantasy. I have heard of one that, coming by chance in company of him that was thought to be sick of the plague (which was not so), fell down suddenly dead. Many will not believe such stories to be true, but these men consider with themselves, if they were set to walk upon a plank on high, they would be giddy, upon which they dare securely walk upon the ground. As some are so molested by phantasy, so some again by fancy alone, and a good conceit, are as easily recovered. We see commonly the tooth-ache, gout, falling-sickness, biting of a mad dog, and many such maladies, cured by spells, words, characters, and charms; and many green wounds ... All the world knows there is no virtue in such charms, or cures, but a strong conceit and opinion alone. The like we may say of our magical effects, superstitious cures, and such as are done by mountebanks and wizards. So diversely doth this phantasy of ours affect, turn and wind, so imperiously command our bodies... How can otherwise blear eyes in one man cause the like affection in another? Why doth one man's yawning make another yawn; one man's pissing provoke a second many times to do the like? So that I may certainly conclude this strong conceit or imagination is the star of man and the rudder of this our ship, which reason should steer, but overborne by phantasy cannot manage, and so suffers itself and this whose vessel of ours to be over-ruled and often overturned.

MEMORY lays upon all the species which the sense have brought in, and records them as a good register, that they may be forthcoming when they are called for by fantasy and reason.

B. MOVING (appetite) power. These appetites are partly involuntary and partly voluntary. It is with the voluntary appetites in man that trouble can begin if they are not kept under control. Their misuse causes man to "fall" on the chain of being and become "animal" like. (Please recall the Troilus and Cressida passage cited earlier.)There are three kinds of appetites the first two of which doctors today would call involuntary. It is the third type, VOLUNTARY, that concerns the moral actions of man and are most important for our purposes. The failure to control these appetites leads to the kinds of tragedy experienced by Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and Lear:

3.The RATIONAL SOUL (Common to man, and subsumes all the powers of the other "souls")

A. Understanding---rational judging and reflecting and apprehending power
B. Will---rational moving power

In the mind there is an:

ACTIVE POWER---called WIT (critical thinking)
PASSIVE POWER--called UNDERSTANDING. Burton used the following analogy:


Explanation and examples of the terms [how we think...]

Will is the rational moving power and it acts on knowledge from understanding and wit in order to make proper choices. In Medieval and Renaissance psychology, WIT / WILL could be corrupted by:

passion over reason --- humors out of balance --- original sin --- appetites --- control of the devil --- sinful habits...

If this happens, bad choices result and the animal-like appetites (the moving power of the sensitive soul) take over. Recall the ending of the Troilus and Cressida passage.


An object exists in the nominalistic world, for example a flower:

The flower is examined by UNDERSTANDING (common sense; fancy; memory) which helps to separate the truth from the false. Note that FANCY is an important term. that will later become associated with imagination [to be covered in the Sidney section]. Understanding in turn is checked by WIT, which purges error from understanding. If this process operates correctly, then on a simple level, we know that a tree is a tree and not a flower, but on the moral level. we keep our passions under control and make proper decisions.

Failure of this process can cause insanity or madness, especially if the MELANCHOLIC humor dominates the other three. This "psychological" type became a favorite in the Renaissance. Causes of madness:

fall of man --- lust the devil --- passions --- humor imbalance --- God's punishment --- excessive imagination --- lack of self-knowledge...


What does Hamlet mean when he says "MY WIT IS DISEASED?"

What is meant when King Lear's daughters observe of him: "He has ever but slenderly known himself."


The following GLOSSARY highlights key ideas from the various disciplines that helped to develop Renaissance Psychology. These include: theology, medicine, science. and morality:

INTELLIGENCE----an intuitive grasp of the truth, understanding and knowing that could involve faith if knowledge of God were the goal.

REASON-----The ability to use mental processes to learn--a step by step process from one truth to another. Shows influence of classical philosophy, Plato's dialectic and Christianity--we need God to do this right. - .-caused passions to cloud man's ability to reason. Our wit is diseased, and we are prone to error. Passions can interfere with reason. Recall the allegory of Adam (higher reason) and Eve (lower reason).

ORIGINAL SIN NATURE---Medieval: created by God, controlled by God and subject to the direction of God. Man must learn to live in harmony with nature by making proper choices. We are out of harmony with nature if we sin. In the Medieval period, fortune was seen as God's link between man and nature. In the Renaissance as nominalism becomes more important, and the spirit of scientific inquiry begins to unfold, nature is seen as discoverable by man through more reason and less faith--recall Bacon. God is there. but His influence is a little less. This spirit was accelerated by the "scientific method" that suggests man has an infinite potential; the idea will eventually shake the notion of order and degree in the universe and the chain of being.

ASSIGNMENT: Note that Shakespeare's plays reflect these ideas in varying degrees. For the plays we read, be able to demonstrate how this material is reflected in the various characters.