The Four Humors: from Hippocrates to Shakespeare
- Social Studies
Students use the online exhibition, “And there’s the humor of it” Shakespeare and the four humors, to explore the ways in which the theory of the four humors from ancient Greece and Rome influenced how Shakespeare understood and wrote about the characters in his plays. They 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.
Teachers are encouraged to preview “The World of Shakespeare’s Humors” and “Taming of the Shrew” sections of the online exhibition, as well as “Hippocrates and Rise of Rational Medicine” and “Galen” sections in the Greek Medicine online exhibition. In addition, teachers may review the following words to identify those that students may need to learn during research activities or class discussions: humor, temperament, bile, choler/choleric, melancholy/melancholic, phlegm/phlegmatic, sanguine, physiology, bloodletting, purging, dogma, cosmology, disposition, therapeutic, biochemical, psychotropic, alleviate, shrew/shrewish.
This class resource was developed by Janet Collier, Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C Close
After completing this class resource, students are able to:
- Identify at least one contribution that Hippocrates and Galen each made to early Western medicine
- Name the four humors and a minimum of two traits associated with each humor
- Describe how and why Shakespeare’s fictional characters reflect the four-humor theory, thus demonstrating understanding of how scientific knowledge influences understanding of the human condition and continually evolves
- Recognize that humans continue to explore the mind-body connection in the Western medical traditions from the ancient era until today