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July 17, 1967

Medical Knowledge and Theatrical Interpretation

JAMA. 1967;201(3):209. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130030079029

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To the Editor:—  The theater benefits when actors bring to the stage principles of modern medicine and psychiatry, as illustrated in Leon J. Saul's interesting paper (Othello: Projection in Art, JAMA200:39-40, 1967). Lawrence Olivier's presentation of an Oedipal Hamlet, reflecting the Ernest Jones analysis of the play, is an example of new insight into characterization being stimulated by 20th-century psychiatry. Olivier has also provided a legitimate medical etiology for the otherwise arbitrary fourth-act swoon of Othello by giving him a dramatically effective hyperventilation syndrome.The Shakespeare character most in need of fresh appraisal has been King Lear. His words in the storm scenes are those of a senile, paranoid, and depressed old man without delusions of grandeur ( eg, "Here I stand your slave, a poor, infirm, weak and despised old man." "The little dogs and all... see, they bark at me.") Yet he is commonly