And there’s the Humor of it: Shakespeare and the Four Humors

Shirley Zhao
Data Science Librarian, NN/LM Training Office

Shakespeare Humors PosterSpencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library (EHSL) is pleased to present the latest traveling exhibition from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and the Folger Shakespeare Library:

And there’s the Humor of it:
Shakespeare and the Four Humors
On display July 26 – September 2, 2016
Upper Level, EHSL

Please mark your calendars for two special exhibit-related events:

Visit the exhibit and tour the Library to discover the new spaces and services available! Light snacks will be served.

Open House
Monday, August 15, 2016 at 11AM – 1PM
Meet at the Main Level, EHSL

Then join us for a special Evening Ethics discussion. Light refreshments will be served and CME credit is offered. Download the flyer for more information.

“Melancholia Revisited: Humoral Psychology in Shakespeare’s Plays”
with Mark Matheson, D. Phil
Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 5:30PM – 7PM
History of Medicine Room, EHSL

In addition to the banner exhibition, open house, and Evening Ethics discussion, there will be self-directed scavenger hunts, coloring pages, crossword puzzles, personality quizzes, word searches, and a jigsaw puzzle here at the library for your enjoyment.

About the Exhibition

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) created characters that are among the richest and most humanly recognizable in all of literature. Yet Shakespeare understood human personality in the terms available to his age—that of the now-discarded theory of the four bodily humors –blood, bile, melancholy, and phlegm. These four humors were understood to define peoples’ physical and mental health, and determined their personality, as well.

The language of the four humors pervades Shakespeare’s plays and their influence is felt above all in a belief that emotional states are physically determined. Carried by the bloodstream, the four humors bred the core passions of anger, grief, hope, and fear—the emotions conveyed so powerfully in Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. Curator Gail Kern Paster explains “The four humors were an early typology for human personality. Shakespeare uses them, even as he transcends them, to create the vivid characters whose emotions continue to fascinate and delight us.”

“And there’s the humor of it”: Shakespeare and the four humors explores the role played by the four humors in several of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays through beautiful imagery and rare books from both the National Library of Medicine and the Folger Shakespeare Library, and examines more modern interpretations of the four humors in contemporary medicine. For more information, please visit the website.


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