MEDICINE in Tudor times saw great breakthroughs in understanding mental illness and anatomy.
And Stratford physician John Hall – the husband of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna – who practiced during this time is at the centre of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s latest exhibition at Hall’s Croft, which was the couple’s home in Stratford.
Method in the Madness: Understanding Ourselves Then and Now explores medicine in the lifetime of Shakespeare’s son-in-law – a time where dissecting bodies was no longer prohibited and doctors and surgeons were able to better understand the body, its organs and how they worked.
The exhibition features a copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy which gave doctors a more sympathetic understanding of mental illness and suggested treatments including counselling and being around friends and family, and a selection of surgical implements like a bone saw and forceps used for removing bullets.
Curator Lucy Dale spent three months researching Dr Hall and the popular medical practices of the time. The Four Humours – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm – which Greek physician Hippocrates developed into medical theory were considered to be the balance of the human body at the time.
Many cures involved restoring balance to the humours, which visitors will be able to learn about in the exhibition.
And people can even step into the shoes of physicians by comparing urine samples to the SBT’s uroscopy wheel.
Lucy said: “Visitors will learn how John Hall and his contemporaries understood their minds and bodies, health and disease and how this fed into the medicine of the time.
“Throughout the exhibition, visitors will also catch glimpses of modern medical beliefs and practices, taken from interviews with medical professionals including a staff nurse, a professor of muscle physiology and a trainee clinical psychologist.
“These viewpoints allow people to compare medicine then and now. By providing a modern comparison, we hope to remind people that while methods vary, the battle against disease is nothing new.”
Method in the Madness is now open to visitors at Hall’s Croft. Visit www.shakespeare.org.uk for further details.