Insanity

 

Francis Bacon in 1600 wrote to Queen Elizabeth that his mother was "much worn." Shortly afterwards she became violently insane and continued to do so, under the sole care of Francis Bacon, until her death in 1610. It was during this period that "King Lear" and the revised version of "Hamlet" were written. These plays contain so amazing a knowledge of insanity that specialists regard it as a psychological marvel, and a great authority, Dr. Bucknill, therefore, maintained that "watching persons mentally afflicited must have been a favourite study of Shakespeare's."


In the play "Hamlet" is a scene where Hamlet sees the ghost of his murdered father and addresses it. His mother, the Queen, who is present, is unable to see anything to account for her son's conduct, exclaiming :

"This is the very coinage of your brain;
This bodiless creation, ecstacy
Is very cunning in."
-Act 3, Scene 4

Hamlet replies :

"It is not madness
That I have utter'd; bring me to the test
And I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from."

Here Hamlet asks to be put to a test, which is one known only to experts, namely to repeat word for word, what he has previosly uttered. All brain specialists know that inability to recall a train of thought is a special mark of insanity. Goethe said that "Shakespeare knew, however he acquired the knowledge, the phenomena of insanity as few have known them."

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