The Humor of Affection

Author: Kaitlyn Cohen

When analyzing Shakespeare’s meaning behind the term “the humor of affection,” it is important to first examine the term’s context as well as its use within varying translation of the sixteenth century play Love’s Labour’s Lost. Today, the words “humor” and “affection” are not commonly seen together, given that affection is a deep, and consequential feeling whereas humor describes something that light-hearted and funny. In the context of the Verse translation, Braggart is saying he is willing to draw his sword against the “humor of affection,” implying this phrase as something bad that Braggart must defend himself against. Additionally, Braggart describes the “humor of affection” as “reprobate,” further implying that it is something evil, immoral, and furthermore unwelcome.

In a differing translation, this phrase takes on a slightly different meaning given that “humor” is replaced with the British spelling, “humour.” Given that Shakespeare was writing this play in sixteenth century England, it is fair to believe that this more traditional spelling is what Shakespeare actually wrote in the original version of the play. However, this different spelling also takes on a different definition of, “mood, disposition, frame of mind, temperament [as determined by bodily fluids]” (SW). This definition turns the contemporarily jovial and carefree term into something more permanent, methodical, and scientific. Taking this into account, the line as a whole takes on a different meaning, implying that this affection is something that is unavoidable for Braggart, and is furthermore dangerous, given his need to defend himself against, and even fight this feeling.