Medicine in Shakespearean Plays: Compilation of Descriptions of Clinical Features and Pathophysiology

Nasir Abdul Latif Sarwani, Durjoy Kumar Shome, Henry James, Manoj Chakravarty


William Shakespeare’s plays provide an invaluable compendium of medical terminology in the form of brief to detailed descriptions of clinical features and pathophysiology of various medical conditions. Shakespeare’s ability to describe dysfunctions of the human body and mind is astounding and has remained so for almost four centuries. The afflictions appear in the characters of kings, princes’ and commoners in his plays and their clinical features described in verse are more or less true even to this day. The aim of this study is to present a comprehensive compilation of medical afflictions from Shakespearean plays in alphabetical order containing verses that specifically depict clinical features, pathophysiology of medical conditions and medical ethics, and to provide short clinical explanations of relevance of passages in modern times as appropriate. Most passages do not reflect on the clinical conditions of actual patients, but deal with figurative expressions, drawn from clinical relevance in medicine during the Shakespearean era and used figuratively by the bard to illustrate those expressions through characters in the plays.

Keywords: Shakespeare and Medicine, History of Medicine, Clinical features, Symptomatology, Pathophysiology

DOI: 10.7176/JHMN/62-16

Publication date:May 31st 2019

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