"Mere Madness": A Study of the Portrayal of Women's Mental Health in Shakespeare's Plays
Scott, Cara J.
Washington and Lee University -- Capstone in English
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
Women -- Mental health
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Cara J. Scott is a member of the Class of 2016 of Washington and Lee University.Capstone; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]In this paper, I study the suicides of Ophelia from Hamlet and Lady Macbeth from Macbeth, and point out how their words and actions correlate with what was called madness at the time, but what we understand as depression today. I also study the deaths of Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra, comparing and contrasting their suicides with those of Ophelia and Lady Macbeth. . . . I argue in this paper that Shakespeare’s difference in treatment among the four women in these plays when it comes to their assumed mental illnesses and ultimate suicides points to ill-informed ideas about mental health in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These beliefs also serve to strengthen the view of women as hyperemotional beings and the tendency to simply write off their potential mental health issues. [From introductory section]Cara Scott