Shakespeare Shakespeare

New UNM exhibit explores William Shakespeare’s “Four Humors” February 10-March 18

“Magic to Medicine” film viewing on March 3 free to public

“And There’s the Humor of It: Shakespeare and the Four Humors,” a National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, will be on display February 10-March 18, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. in UNM North Campus’ Domenici Center Auditorium lobby.

The exhibit explores the language of the four humors that bred the core passions of anger, grief, hope and fear – the emotions conveyed so powerfully in William Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.

In conjunction with the exhibit, HSLIC will host two viewings of the film “Magic to Medicine,” which examines our understanding of blood, one of the four humors, from being viewed as a key element in religious rituals in ancient times to the end of the 19th Century, when transfusions had become safe and routine. The film airs Thursday, March 3, noon-1 p.m. in Domenici Center, room B102; and the second on Wednesday, March 9, noon-1 p.m. in Domenici Center, room B114.

Shakespeare understood human personality in the terms available to his age – those of the now-discarded theory of the four bodily humors. The theory was passed on from the ancient philosophers of Aristotle, Hippocrates and Galen and was organized around the four elements of earth, water, air and fire. The humors were thought to define people’s physical and mental health and to determine their personalities. Illness was defined as an imbalance of one or more of the humors, so the goal of treatment for disease was to restore balance.

Shakespeare’s audiences were presented with plays depicting the full range of human behaviors and character types, from vengefulness to the choleric old age to maidenly melancholy. This exhibit explores these qualities through Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” “Hamlet” and “Merchant of Venice,” as well as a modern interpretation of the humors in contemporary medicine.

The exhibit and film event are free. For more information, contact Laura Hall at or 272-6518. Visitors to the exhibit may park in UNM’s “M” lot at Tucker and Yale and use metered parking.

Categories: School of Medicine, Community

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