How might "The Alchemist" be considered a comedy of humours?

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A comedy of humors is a dramatic genre that displays characters that seem to be out of sorts or unbalanced. The characters are presented that way because they have one overriding character trait. This makes the characters extremely flat, and they appear as caricatures.

Including The Alchemist in this genre type is an interesting concept. The question appears open enough to use any character, and that helps to qualify this story in this genre. I don't believe Santiago helps the argument. He is a well rounded and dynamic character; however, he comes into contact with people that could be seen as caricatures.

The gypsy woman is a good example. She is only in the book for a few paragraphs, and being a caricature type of character really helps because readers will likely all have the same initial preconceived notions. She's mystical, helpful, and not helpful all at the same time.

Similarly, the crystal merchant is an extremely flat character. He's a good guy. He helps out Santiago; however, the crystal merchant is exceptionally depressing in that he has given up on achieving goals. He's exceptionally stagnant in his life, and he doesn't see a problem with that. It's his one overriding trait, and thankfully Santiago eventually sees a problem with that.

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I am assuming, by the Top Tags, that you are reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and not the play by Ben Jonson.

A Comedy of Humours focuses on a character who exhibits one overriding trait, or humour, that dominates his personality. The idea surrounding the four humours got its start in Egypt, but it was the Greeks who linked them to the four seasons and the four elements (earth, air, fire, water).  The idea is that a person's temperment was derived from an excess of one bodily fluid over another (blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm).  The corresponding temperments are:

Blood which makes a person sanguine, or in modern terms, an artisan.  Qualities include courage, hopefulness, and love.

Yellow bile is associated with being choleric or acting as a guardian, to use modern terminology.  Qualities include being easily angered or bad tempered.

Black bile makes one melancholic, or modern terms describe it as being rational.  Qualities include being despondant, sleepless and irritable.

Phlegmatic people are noted as being calm, unemotional idealists.

Now that the humours have been identified, I would have to say that Santiago would fall into the Blood humour. This is shown in his courage in leaving the seminary and then his sheep in order to pursue his Personal Legend. Throughout his long journey, he remains hopeful and shows love to others.


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