Israeli doctors enjoy the dubious reputation of being unfeeling, arrogant and altogether incapable of listening to patients’ concerns, to such an extent that the success of treatment can be seriously compromised, on both a scientific and human level. In an attempt to combat these shortcomings, Israel has followed other countries’ lead in incorporating exposure to the humanities as an integral part of the medical curriculum. I argue that Shakespeare’s theatre provides a unique platform for discussion of the ways in which we approach our own and our patients’ mental and physical pain. I address the particular challenges of teaching Shakespeare to multicultural Israeli medical students and the value of drawing on performances in Hebrew and Arabic as well as English. I employ performance theory and cultural studies to shed light on the insights to be gained by exposure to Shakespeare performance which can directly impact these future medical practitioners’ experience.
Rebecca Gillis is a paediatrician and neonatologist. She holds a doctorate in Shakespeare performance and teaches in the medical humanities programme at Hadassah Medical School.