Health University

Looking for humor in Shakespeare? How about four?

Photo credit: Salman Javed

Reese Library will host “‘And there’s the humor of it’: Shakespeare and the four humors,” a Shakespearian medical exhibit, from Aug. 28 to Saturday, Oct. 7

Produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and the Shakespeare Folger Library, the exhibit explores the role played by the four humors—blood, choler, melancholy and phlegm—in several of William Shakespeare’s most notable plays. Consisting of six free-standing graphic panels, the “four humors” displays beautiful imagery and rare books from the National Library of Medicine and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Although he created some of literature’s most memorable characters and dramatic tales, Shakespeare (1564-1616) understood human health and well-being in the terms of his time. The most commonly held medical belief of his era was that an individual’s mental and physical health was governed by four “humors,” each represented by a different color: red for blood, black for “melancholy” (also referred to as “black bile”), yellow for “choler” or “irritability” (also referred to as “yellow bile”) and phlegm.

Visit the exhibit’s National Library of Medicine entry for more information.

About the author

Nick Garrett

Nick Garrett is a communications coordinator in the Division of Communications & Marketing at Augusta University. Contact him at 706-446-4802 or