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Additional Resources

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Curator’s Bibliography

  • Arikha, Noga. Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.
  • Filipczak, Zirka. Hot Dry Men, Cold Wet Women: The Theory of Humors in Western European Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1997.
  • Gross, John. Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
  • Klibansky,Raymond, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl. Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art. London: Thomas Nelson, 1964.
  • Lemnius, Levinas. The Touchstone of Complexions. Translated by Thomas Newton. London: Thomas Marsh, 1581.
  • Park, Katharine. “The Organic Soul.” In The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy. Edited by Charles B. Schmitt, et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • ___. “The Concept of Psychology.” In The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy.
  • Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • ___, et al. “Introduction.” In Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, 1–20.
  • Shapiro, James. Shakespeare and the Jews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
  • Showalter, Elaine. “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism.” In Shakespeare and the Question of Theory. Edited by Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman. London and New York: Methuen, 1985.
  • Wright, Thomas. The Passions of the Mind in Generall. 1604. Rpt., edited and with introduction by Thomas O. Sloan. Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 1971.

K-12 Online resources and Suggested Readings

Online Resources

  • BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). “The Four Humours.” Accessed 1/27/2011.
    An episode of BBC’s “In Our Time” dedicated to the theory of the four humors.
    Radio show discusses the history of the theory and how the belief, that the mind and body are intimately connected and that health requires equilibrium of the humours, retains an influence to this day. (Grade: 6th and up)
  • Folger Shakespear Library. “The Optike Glasse of Humours.” Accessed 1/27/2012.
    This online primary source web site features a diagram of the humors from a book by Thomas Walkington (London: 1607) along with a brief description about the diagram and several teachers’ lesson ideas. (Grade: 6th and up)
  • Hanly, Michael. “The Four Humours*.” Accessed 1/27/2012.
    A page created by a WSU professor to give background on the theory of the four humors for context for studying Chaucer. (Grade: 8th and up)
  • Internet Shakespeare Editions. Accessed 1/27/2011.
    An online library of Shakespeare’s works and reference collection on William Shakespeare’s life, time and works. A search for the “four humours” retrieves several web articles. (Grade: 8th and up)
  • ———. “The humours (1).” Accessed 1/27/2012.
    This web page provides descriptions of four humors using a graphic and a chart. (Grade: 6 and up)
  • Anon. “Black Biles and Other Humors.” Accessed 1/27/2012.
    A page from the Hamlet Conundrums web site devoted to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, provides a brief explanation of the theory of the four humors. At the bottom of the page you can arrow back and forth to other pages that specifically look at melancholy in Hamlet. (Grade: 9 and up)


  • Krims, Marvin Bennet. The mind according to Shakespeare: psychoanalysis in the Bard’s writing. Santa Barbara:Praeger, 2006.
    Krims, M.D., examines the sonnets and characters of Shakespeare in exploring the psychological aspects of various Shakespeare’s characters. The analysis includes Prince Hal’s aggression, Hotspur’s fear of femininity, Hamlet’s frailty, Romeo’s childhood trauma, and King Lear’s inability to grieve, to name a few. (Grade: 11 and up)
  • Strathern, Paul. A Brief History of Medicine: From Hippocrates’ Four Humours to Crick and Watson’s Double Helix. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005
    A Brief History of Medicine explores the foundations for the scientific study of the body and modern Western medicine whose roots stretch back as far as ancient Greece, when medicine first departed from the divine and the mystical and moved toward observation and logic. (Grade: 10 and up)
  • Wagner, John A, ed. Voices of Shakespeare’s England: contemporary accounts of Elizabethan daily life. Santa Barbara: Greenwood, 2010.
    Voices of Shakespeare’s England includes excerpts from and analysis of over 50 primary documents written in William Shakespeare’s lifetime, including letters, literature, speeches and polemics, official reports, and descriptive narratives. These primary sources are presented in order to help readers explore specific segment—e.g., Literature and History—during that era. (Grade: 9 and up)


  • Dionne, Erin. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010.
    A main character named, Hamlet, is embarrassed by her Elizabethan scholar parents and has the normal struggles of sibling rivalry with her genius 7 year old sister. This novel includes many Shakespeare references and allusions. (Grade level: 4–8)
  • Fiedler, Lisa. Dating Hamlet: Ophelia’s story. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2002
    In this retelling of Hamlet, the plot is kept intact while, instead of portraying Ophelia as a phlegmatic, weak, and unfortunate character, she is portrayed as a woman in love, feigns madness, and does whatever is necessary to force Claudius to admit to his despicable crimes. (Grade: 10 and up)
  • Klein, Lisa M. Characters in Fiction Representing the Four Humors Lady Macbeth’s Daughter. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.
    This young adult novel reworks Macbeth from the perspective of Albia, a fictitious daughter of Macbeth who is an example of a choleric character. (Grade: 8 and up)
  • ———. Hamlet. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2006
    This novel expands on Hamlet from the perspective of Ophelia who is an excellent example of a phlegmatic Shakespeare character. (Grade: 8 and up)

The following fictions are suggested to apply four humors to non-Shakespearean characters:

  • Alcott, Mary Louise. Little Women. New York: Signet Classics, 1986.
    This classic novel provides ample opportunity for detailed character analysis of the four humors—for example, Jo is choleric, Meg is phlegmatic, Elizabeth is melancholic, and Amy is sanguine. These characters also can be compared to Shakespeare characters.
  • Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: W. W. Norton & Company,
    The main characters of Wuthering Heights are great for discussion of the four humors. Is Heathcliff a character suffering from too much yellow bile and Catherine from too much black bile?
  • Meyers, Stephanie. Twilight series. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007.
    The main character of this series, Bella, is an excellent example of the melancholy humor.
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
    Characters like the house elves Dobby and Kreature are excellent examples of sanguine and choleric characters respectively. Students can also examine other characters for traits from the four humors. The four houses in Hogwarts could even be interpreted as an extension of the four humors.