Ex-Classics Home Page

The Works of Aristotle - Judgments according to Physiognomy, drawn from the several parts of the body, from the hands to the feet.

Judgments according to Physiognomy, drawn from the several parts of the body, from the hands to the feet.

A large and full breast shows a man valiant and courageous, but withal proud, and hard to deal with, quickly angry, and very apprehensive of an injury. He whose breast is narrow, and which riseth a little in the middle of it, is, by the best rules of physiognomy, of a clean spirit, of a great understanding, good in counsel, very faithful, clean both in mind and body, yet as an ally to this, he is soon angry, and inclined long to keep it. He whose breast is something hairy is very luxurious, and serviceable to another. He who hath no hairs upon his breast is a man weak by nature, of a slender capacity, and very timorous, but of a laudable life and conversation, inclined to peace, and much retired to himself.

The back of the shin bone, if the flesh be any thing hairy and lean, and higher than any other part that is behind, signifies a man beastly, and withal malicious. He whose back is large, big, and fat, is thereby denoted to be a strong and stout man, but of a heavy disposition, vain, slow, and full of deceit.

He or she whose belly is soft over all the body, is weak, lustful, and fearful upon little or no occasion, of a good understanding, and an excellent invention, but little eaters, faithful, but of various fortune, and meets with more adversity than prosperity. He whose flesh is rough and hard, is a man of strong constitution, and very bold, but vain, proud, and of a cruel temper. A person whose skin is smooth, fat, and white, is a person curious, vain-glorious, timorous, shamefaced, malicious, false, and too wise to believe all he hears.

A thigh full of strong bristly hair and the hair inclined to curl, signifies one lusty, licentious, and fit for copulation: thighs with but little hair, and those soft and slender, shows the person to be reasonably chaste, and one that has no great desire to venereal pleasures, and who will have but few children.

The legs of both men and women have a fleshy substance behind, which are called calves, which nature hath given them (as in our bock of living creatures we have observed) in lieu of those long tails which most other creatures have pendant behind. Now a great calf, and he whose legs are of a great bone, and hairy withal, denotes the person to be strong, bold, secure dull in under standing. aid slow in business, inclined to procreation, and for the most part fortunate in his undertakings. Little legs, and but little hair on them, shows the person to be weak, fearful, of a quick understanding, and neither luxurious at bed nor board. He whose legs do much abound with hairs, shows he has great store in another place, and that he is lustful and luxurious, strong, but unable in his resolution, and abounding with all humours.

The feet of either man or woman, if broad and thick with flesh, and long in figure, especially if the skin feels hard, they are by nature of a strong constitution, and a gross nutriment, but of a weak intellect, which renders their understandings vain. But feet that are thin and lean, and of a soft skin, shows the person to be but weak of body, but of a strong understanding, and of an excellent wit.

The soles of the feet do administer plain and evident signs whereby the disposition and constitution of men and women may be known, as do the palms of their hands, as being full of lines, by which lines all the fortunes or the misfortunes of men or women may be known, and their manners and inclinations made plainly to appear. But this in general we may take notice, as that many long lines and strokes do presage great affliction, and a very troublesome life, attended with much grief and toil, care, poverty and misery; but short lines, if they are thick, and full of cross lines, are yet worse in every degree. Those, the skin of whose soles are very thick and gross, are for the most part able, strong, and venturous. Whereas on the contrary, those the skin of whose soles of their feet is thin are generally weak and timorous.

I shall now, before I conclude (having given an account of what judgments may be made by observing the several parts of the body, from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet), give an account of what judgments may be drawn by the rules of physiognomy from things extraneous which are found upon many, and which indeed to them are parts of the body, but are so far from being necessary parts that they are the deformity and burden of it, and speak of the habit of the body as they distinguish persons.


I.-- Of crooked and deformed Persons.

A crooked breast or shoulder, or the exuberance of flesh in the body either of man or woman, signifies the person to be extremely parsimonious and ingenious, and of great understanding, but very covetous, and scraping after the things of the world, attended also with a very bad memory, being also very deceitful and malicious: they are seldom in a medium, but either virtuous or extremely vicious. But if the person deformed hath an excrescence on his breast instead of the back, he is for the most part of a double heart, and very mischievous.


II.-- Of the divers manners of going, and particular posture both of Men and Women.

HE or she that goes slowly, making great steps as they go, are generally persons of bad memory, and dull of apprehension, given to loitering, and not apt to believe what is told them. He who goes apace, and makes short steps, is most successful in all his undertakings, swift in his imagination, and humble in the disposition of his affairs. He who makes wide and uneven steps, and side long withal, is one of a greedy sordid nature, subtile, malicious and wills to do evil.

III.-- Of the Gait or Motion in Men and Women.

EVERY man hath a certain gait or motion, and so in like manner hath every woman. For a man with his hands or feet, whether he stands or sits, or speaks, is always accompanied with an extravagant motion, unnecessary, superfluous, and unhandsome. Such a man by the rules of physiognomy, is vain, unwise, unchaste, a detractor, unstable, and unfaithful. He or she whose motion is not much when discoursing with any one, is for the most part wise and well bred, and fit for any employment, ingenious and apprehensive, frugal, faithful, and industrious in business. He whose posture is forwards and backwards, or, as it were whisking up and down, mimical, is thereby denoted to be a vain silly person, of a heavy and dull wit, and very malicious. He whose motion is fame and limping, or any otherwise imperfect, or that counterfeits an imperfection, is denoted to be envious, malicious, false, and detracting.


IV.-- Judgments drawn from the Stature of Man.

PHYSIOGNOMY draws several judgments also from the stature of a man, which take as followeth: If a man he upright and straight, inclined rather to cleanness than fat, it shows him to be bold, cruel, proud, clamorous, hard to please, and harder to be reconciled when displeased, very frugal, deceitful, and in many things malicious. To be of a tall stature; and corpulent with it, denotes him to be not only handsome but valiant also, but of no extraordinary understanding, and which is worst of all, ungrateful and trepanning. He who is extremely tall, and very lean and thin, is a projecting man, that designs no good to himself, and suspects every one to be as bad as himself, importunate to obtain what he desires, and extremely wedded to his own humours. He who is thick and short is vain, envious, suspicious, and very shallow of apprehension, easy of belief, but very long before he will forget any injury. He who is lean and short, but upright withal, is, by the rules of physiognomy, wise and ingenious, bold and confident, and of a good understanding, but of a deceitful heart. He who stoops as he goes, not so much by age as custom, is very laborious, a retainer of secrets, but very incredulous, and not easy to believe every vain report he hears. He that goes with his belly 'stretching forth is sociable, merry, and easy to be persuaded.


V.-- General Observations worthy of Note.

WHEN you find a red man to be faithful, a tall man to be wise, a fat man to be swift of foot, a lean man to be a fool, a handsome man not to be proud, a poor man not to be envious, a whitely man not to be wise, one that talks through the nose to speak without sniffing, a knave to be no liar, an upright man not to be bold and hearty to his own loss, one that drawls when he speaks not to be crafty and circumventing, a man of a hot constitution, and full of hair on his breast and body, not to be lustful; one that winks on another with his eyes, pot to be false and deceitful; one that knows how to shuffle his cards, to be ignorant how to deal them; a rich man to be prodigal, a sailor and a hangman to be pitiful, a poor man to build churches, a higler not to be a liar, and a praiser of his ware; a buyer not to find fault with and undervalue that which he would willingly buy; a quack doctor to have a good conscience both to God and man; a bailiff or catchpole not to be a merciless villain; an hostess not to over reckon you, and an usurer to be charitable; then say you have found a prodigy, or men acting contrary to the course of their nature.