Shakespeare exhibit comes to USF Health


Students who visit the Shimberg Health Sciences Library on campus are used to the quiet atmosphere and rows of medical textbooks. However, there is currently something near the south entrance that might catch people off-guard: An art exhibit focused on the works of William Shakespeare.

“And There’s the Humor of It: Shakespeare and the Four Humors” uses 8-foot tall panels, with information and images from old textbooks and props to examine Shakespeare’s use of the four humors in character creation.

The exhibit opened March 13 and closes Saturday.

The theory of the four humors is an ancient medical one in which it is believed that certain physical characteristics and personality traits can be attributed to four bodily fluids. 

Blood is related to the personality known as sanguine, and thought to be produced mainly by the liver. Phlegm, which temperament is called phlegmatic, is related to the brain. Black bile comes from the spleen and is connected to melancholia, and yellow bile, with its disposition called choleric, originates from the gall bladder.

Respectively, the personality traits attributed to each can be summarized as social, relaxed, quiet and short-tempered. The idea is to have a balance of all of these humors.

While unique in some aspects, this is not the first exhibit like this to appear in the library, but Rose Bland, director of the Shimberg Health Sciences Library, said they are “selective” in what they choose to show.

All of the presentations that one can find in the library have been borrowed from the National Library of Medicine, which is under the National Institute of Health.

“They curate different exhibits touching on different parts of our culture, and tie it to medicine,” Bland said.

This specific viewing was also done in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library in D.C., home to the largest collection of Shakespearean works in the world.

Jill Baker, fiscal and business specialist for the Shimberg Health Sciences Library, took the lead on planning and organizing the exhibit and its reception.

“They have a series of traveling exhibits that they make available to libraries and universities throughout the country, and you have to get on their list,” Baker said. “Sometimes the wait is a long time.”

It took the library two years to get “And There’s the Humor of It.”

To go along with the theme, they decorated the area with flowers that were popular in that time period, as well as quotes. Not to mention, the library staff collaborated with another department on campus to expand the exhibit.

“We always add to ours and we try to have a little fun with it,” Baker said. “We have the costumes from that period that were borrowed from the Arts and Sciences theatre group.”