Stories

The Four Humours

The ancient theory of humorism influenced medical thinking for over 2,000 years. Four substances in the body known as humours - blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile - were thought to control the health and temperament of every individual. Many of Shakespeare's best-known characters were influenced by the theory, including Falstaff, Hamlet and Lady Macbeth.

  • Series
Coloured diagram of the four elements, four qualities, four humours, four seasons, and four ages of man. Naked woman in the centre.
The four elements, four qualities, four humours, four seasons, and four ages of man, 1991. © Wellcome Collection. CC BY.

About the author

Photograph of Nelly Ekström

Nelly Ekström

Nelly Ekström is a Visitor Experience Assistant, bringing the galleries and exhibitions to life.