The Melancholy Dane
Grade Levels: 10-12
- Social Studies
Students first use an excerpt 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 are expected to have read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and to be familiar with dramatic plot structure, specifically exposition and rising action.
Teachers are encouraged to preview all sections of the online exhibition and to review lesson handouts prior to using this class resource. Teachers may also review or reference the following secondary sources for additional background information:
–In the Greek Medicine online exhibition, “Hippocrates and the Rise of Rational Medicine” and “Galen”
–Conti, Andrea A. “Historical evolution of the concept of health in Western medicine.” Acta bio -medica: Atenei Parmensis, 2018; 89(3): 352-354.
–Ekström, Nelly. “Hamlet: the melancholic Prince of Denmark”, Wellcome Collection.
In addition, teachers may review the following words to identify those that students may need to learn during research activities or class discussions: inference, turning point, exposition, rising action, falling action, climax, resolution, denouement, thesis, context, catastrophe, internal conflict, external conflict, protagonist, black bile, yellow bile, sanguine, melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic, humors (also humours).
This class resource was developed by Sahar Siddiqui, Montgomery College, Rockville, Maryland. Close
After completing this class resource, students are able to:
- Describe the four humors as established by ancient Greek and Roman physicians
- Apply their knowledge of the four humors to their analysis of Hamlet.
- Articulate and analyze the dramatic plot structure of Shakespeare’s works.
- Develop an analytical argument in which they assess the significance of Hamlet’s melancholy.
- Interpret primary sources of varying media types, including textual and visual.