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Mad for Shakespeare: a Reconsideration of the Importance of Bedlam

From: Parergon
Volume 21, Number 1, January 2004
pp. 113-132 | 10.1353/pgn.2004.0039



Much of what scholars assume to be the truth about London's St Mary of Bethlehem hospital, known as Bedlam, is based on supposition rather than fact. It is likely that the experience of visiting the hospital offered rather more than 'entertainment'. A reconsideration of the factual information we have about Bedlam in the period in which madness flourished in the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries (1598-1622), allied to an analysis of scenes from King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth, suggests how the hospital may have influenced Shakespeare.

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