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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Diagnosing Lear

Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion has an interesting piece on how doctors have been trying to diagnose Lear’s condition for the past two centuries.

Nineteenth-century mad doctors in Britain and America said Lear’s case was just like many they saw in their asylums. Psychoanalysts perceived in Lear a case of thwarted incest (they would, wouldn’t they?). A variety of diagnoses have been offered from senile dementia to manic-depressive psychosis. (No one has suggested General Paralysis of the Insane, the last stage of syphilis.) Dr. Truskinovsky, writing in the Southern Medical Journal in 2002, makes a powerful case for mania, and suggests that Lear had been suffering from bipolar affective disorder all his life.

As Lear says, somewhere towards the end of his play:

When we are born we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools

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