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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: September ::
Re: Observations of Bedlam
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0843  Tuesday, 15 September 1998.

[1]     From:   Mary Todd <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Sep 1998 14:59:18 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0835 Re: Observations of Bedlam

[2]     From:   Erika Lin <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Sep 1998 18:09:30 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0835  Re: Observations of Bedlam


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Todd <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Sep 1998 14:59:18 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0835 Re: Observations of Bedlam
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0835 Re: Observations of Bedlam

Although I cannot cite the source-text or lecture-I seem to remember
that Shakespeare might have seen people like Poor Tom in the
countryside  between Stratford and London.  If so, what would have been
the general treatment of/attitude toward such unfortunate ones?  Would
they have elicited fear?  Revulsion?  Contempt?  Mockery?

How did those who wound up in Bedlam get there?  Were they committed by
relatives or picked up by the constabulary?  Thanks for any insights.

Mary A. Todd
Charlotte Country Day School

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Erika Lin <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Sep 1998 18:09:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0835  Re: Observations of Bedlam
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0835  Re: Observations of Bedlam

Roy Flannagan asks:

| My questions are biographical and critical: what exposure might
| Shakespeare have had to real insanity, and what theories of insanity
| govern his depictions of Edgar as Tom, Lear as temporary madman, and
| Hamlet's feigned or real madness, and Ophelia's real madness?

In addition to the texts Fran Teague suggests (especially Robert Reed's
study), you might also take a look at Michael MacDonald's _Mystical
Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England_
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), especially Chapters 1
("Insanity in Early Modern England"), 4 ("Popular Stereotypes of
Insanity"), and 5 ("Psychological Healing").  Also, there are some
interesting and useful contemporary references to madness in some of the
melancholy treatises (see, for example, Timothie Bright's _A Treatise of
Melancholie_ [1586] and Robert Burton's _The Anatomy of Melancholy_
[1621]), but, if you don't have access to those, you might take a look
at _Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, 1535-1860: A History Presented in
Selected English Texts_, edited by Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine
(London: Oxford University Press, 1963), which compiles some excerpts
from these and other primary texts.

One thing to consider is that the terms "insanity" and "madness" are not
completely interchangeable in this context.  As Burton notes in his
encyclopedic _Anatomy of Melancholy_, writers since antiquity had set up
various ways of defining madness and other related terms:

  Madnesse, Phrensie, and Melancholy are confounded by many Writers, as
Celsus: others leave out Phrensie, and make Madnesse and Melancholy but
one Disease

 

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