History of Medicine
The Four Humors: from Hippocrates to Shakespeare is prepared for 5–8 grade classes in connection with the study of ancient civilizations.
This lesson presents primary and secondary sources, in order for students to learn about Hippocrates, Galen, and the medical theory of the four humors-bodily fluids, whose balance determined one’s physical and mental dispositions. Students discover the influence of the humoral theory in Shakespeare’s plays, and assess the dominant humor of Katharine Minola, the protagonist in The Taming of the Shrew. Students then read two contemporary articles about the mind-body connection to write a short essay about their position on the subject.
The Melancholy Dane is prepared for 10–12 grade classes. In this lesson, students deepen their analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet by learning about and applying their knowledge of the four humors rooted in Greek Medicine and used during and beyond Shakespeare’s time. Students use an excerpts from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor to consider varying definitions of “humor” in the author’s time. They examine primary sources featured in the “And there’s the humor of it” Shakespeare and the four humors exhibition to learn about the four humors and the humoral theory, as well as review dramatic structure. Students then apply their knowledge about the melancholic humor in their character analysis and understanding of Hamlet as the “melancholy prince.” Students identify text references to Hamlet’s melancholy traits and assess the significance of his characterization for the play as a whole.