Elizabethan Doctors and Medical Beliefs

Lisa Ercolano

external image elizabethan-london.jpg

Medical Beliefs

  • Most 14th Century doctors based their treatments and beliefs on Hippocrates and his oath
  • Doctors commonly believed in the "four humours" and "four elements"
The Four Humours: The "Four Humours" was a Hippocratic idea that the human body was run by blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile, and that the liver was the center of the body. The balance of these bodily fluids (humours) was thought to determine each personality.
The Four Elements: The "Four Elements" was a theory developed by Greek philosopher, Empedocles, which said that the elements earth, water, air, and fire, also determined personality and health.
  • In addition to the Elements and Humours, Shakespearian physicians thought that certain stones could help cure illnesses.
Elizabethan Bubonic Plague Doctor
Elizabethan Bubonic Plague Doctor


  • Elizabethan physicians were very well educated, with degrees from either Oxford or Cambridge
  • Only the wealthy and high classed could become doctors
  • Especially during the Bubonic Plague, (see picture) Doctors wore long black robes, very protective boots, and a strage pointed mask in order to stay healthy

Famous Doctors

  • Ambroise Pare was a French physician, who discovered that cleanliness helped speed the recovery of army patients during the 14th Century
  • In 1616, English physician William Harvey discovered the real funtion of the heart

Home Page