The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1088 Wednesday, 24 May 2000.
Date: Tuesday, 23 May 2000 15:28:08 -0400
Subject: 11.1078 Senile Dementia
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1078 Senile Dementia
The term "senile dementia" is no longer used clinically. The preferred
term is "Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type" (DSM-IV 290.0 to 290.3,
depending on particular features). I strongly recommend that anyone
planning to write an article diagnosing literary characters for
dementia, or any other mental disorder, first get a copy of that book.
In any event, I don't think Lear suffers from dementia. His symptoms
are more consistent with some form of reactive psychosis. Whatever it
is, it appears to be reversible, which is inconsistent with Alzheimer's
dementia. The most likely diagnosis is Brief Psychotic Disorder (DSM-IV
298.8) With Marked Stressors.
Polonius, on the other hand, shows definite signs of the early stages of
Alzheimer's. These include short-term memory impairment ("I was about to
say something"), aphasia ("tragical-historical-comical-pastoral") and
diminished disturbance in executive functioning, which evidently
represent a significant decline from a previous level of functioning.