Publication: Melodies and Maladies: Reflections on Shakespeare and his Portrayal of Disease and Death

This short article was published in RHiME (Research and Humanities in Medical Education), which is the flagship journal of the University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and is run by the Medical Humanities Group and Medical Education Unit. I wrote this article in honour of William Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary in 2014.

Chatterjee P., Seth B.Melodies and maladies: reflections on Shakespeare and his portrayal of disease and death.RHiME [serial online] 2014[cited 2014 Jul 6];1:. Available here.


Shakespeare has long been acknowledged to be a pioneer in understanding the functions and dysfunctions of the human mind. However, very little discussion has centered on his knowledge of the physical science of medicine. In this article the authors reflect on Shakespeare’s portrayal of diseases and death in his work and conclude that he had significant knowledge of the contemporary medical sciences.

Keywords: Humanities, Literature, William Shakespeare

Learning Points:

The reviewer was a keen student of the Bard’s work and wanted us to focus on his depiction of the various fluids and their impact on health or disease as portrayed in his work; and of course, the vagaries of the mental faculties of man, one of the most widely used dramatic elements.


Dr. Bhavna Seth, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi. Dr. Seth helped search the Bard’s work for medical references and in the drafting of the article as well.