Doctors should brush up on their Shakespeare to help improve their understanding of how the mind can affect the body, according to an unusual study. Dr Kenneth Heaton said many doctors don't realise how many physical symptoms can be caused solely by psychological problems. But the Bard's works help illustrate this link because he had such an 'exceptional awareness of bodily sensations'.
The former gastroenterologist and expert on 16th-century literaturelooked for descriptions of sensory ailments in all 42 of Shakespeare's major works. He found dozens of examples when characters experienced psychosomatic symptoms – which was far more than in the writings of his contemporaries. For instance Hamlet is shown suffering from fatigue as a result of grief, crying out: 'How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!' Meanwhile, coldness is shown to be a symptom of shock, as when Juliet in Romeo and Juliet reveals: 'I have a faint cold fear that thrills through my veins.'