Doctors in Shakespeare’s time were not very educated compared to today’s doctors. Most of their work was based on the philosophies of Aristotle and Hippocrates. The beliefs that the doctors shared were accepted by most people during the Shakespearean era. There were some doctors that did not agree with Hippocrates and Aristotle. They believed that if the planets were not aligned correctly, someone would fall ill judging by their horoscope sign.
For the doctors to get their training, they would go to the College of Physicians. This college was founded in 1518. To be given a license a doctor was required to have a certificate saying they graduated from University. In 1565 this college was given the right to do dissections on human corpses. The bodies that were used were interestingly, the bodies of executed convicts and criminals.
In Shakespearean times the medicinal suggestions were commonly based on superstition and complete guesses. The doctors would commonly prescribe herbal medicine to improve their patient’s health. Back then, many diseases were not recognized, so the doctors would just use the most powerful herbal drugs.
Another common idea was to use leeches to “suck out the bad blood”. Other things that were used during this specific time period were minerals, to make people healthier and laxatives, to get people’s digestive systems to start working. Other ideas were bloodletting, purges, and using physiology. Most of these drugs were not used for their correct purposes.
In Shakespearean times, broken legs were not treated like they are today. It was believed that the body was part of the universe. Yellow bile was the equivalent of fire. Phlegm was the equivalent of water. Black bile was the equivalent of earth. Finally, blood was the equivalent of air.
Doctors’ treatments as I already stated were completely based on guesses. It was quite possible in these times that a man who broke his leg was never going to walk again. Many doctors wouldn’t try to help because they believed when things like a broken leg happened; it was because there had been several sins of the soul.
There were hospitals in Shakespearean times. St. Leonard’s is an example of a hospital in Shakespearean times. There is proven evidence that every day at medieval hospitals there would be 300 people lined up at a gate and the nurses would choose 30 people that they would help on that day. 206 people were the capacity of the former hospital.
There were 13 brethren at the hospital and eight sisters. The eight sisters had the responsibility of looking after the extremely sick people in the hospital. The hospital was also a church where people could pray for the sick and dying.
The lower floor of the hospital was dedicated to nursing sick infants back to health and the upper floor was dedicated to helping adults recover from injuries and diseases. I think that the health care system in Shakespearean times is very interesting.