Doctors should to look to Shakespeare to explain their patients’ symptoms, according to a new study.
Analysis of the Bard’s major works showed the British playwright's sensibility of the links between emotional distress and physical symptoms.
Hamlet suffers fatigue after the loss of his father, complaining of his "weary, stale, flat and unprofitable" existence, while in King Lear, Gloucester’s despair causes his “senses [to] grow imperfect.”
Dr Kenneth Heaton, a retired gastroenterologist and researcher at the University of Bristol conducted the study to investigate how doctor’s could improve treatment for patients suffering from psychosomatic symptoms.
He believes reading Shakespeare could help doctor’s understand physical manifestations of psychological distress.
Characters in Romeo And Juliet, Julius Caesar and Richard III experience a sudden drop in temperature and feel faint after experiencing shock.
Emotional disturbance causes vertigo and dizziness in The Taming Of The Shrew, Romeo And Juliet, Henry VI Part 1 and Troilus And Cressida.
Othello’s turbulent love life leads him to suffer from a headache while King Lear, Richard II and King John all experience disturbed hearing after becoming distressed.
Shakespeare’s works contain 43 references to physical symptoms brought on by psychological stress, displaying far more insight than other authors of the age.
Medical courses show a growing interest in the relationship between the science of health and the more traditional ‘arts’ subjects.
Dr Heaton said his research may help lessen the frequent delay in diagnosis for patients suffering from psychosomatic symptoms. The study, published in the journal Medical Humanities, spoke about in
"Shakespeare had an extraordinary insight into the psychology of human beings, extending to the emotional effects on the body.
"Some medical schools have more in the way of humanities teaching than others, but many doctors would be able to learn something from Shakespeare."