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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Madness at the Globe

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 22 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5208
  1. Trevor Turner, general adult psychiatrist and clinical director, East London and City University Mental Health NHS Trust, London

    The first female playwright to write for the Globe in 400 years sets her play in the 18th century, when people commonly paid a penny to see lunatics. Trevor Turner saw this raucous show

    Putting madness on the stage was routine in Shakespearian and Jacobean theatre. King Lear, Othello, Macbeth’s wife, Malvolio, and (possibly) Hamlet all went mad, and psychiatrists through the ages have earnestly expounded their diagnostic theories. Later the use of a madhouse as part of the action of lurid dramas—the Jacobean The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, for example—became common, and Bedlam was the iconic brand name, deriving from the original Priory of St Mary of Bethlehem, founded in 1247, and evolving to its current existence, in Beckenham, south London, as the Bethlem Royal Hospital.

    Now we have Bedlam, a play that in a Hogarthian way uses mental illness and its management as both comedy and …

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