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May 1990

Delirium in Shakespeare

Author Affiliations

National Unit for Psychiatric Research and Development Lewisham Hospital Lewisham High Street London SE13 6LH, England

Arch Neurol. 1990;47(5):502. doi:10.1001/archneur.1990.00530050016004

To the Editor.  —No account of Shakespearean neurology is complete without reference to his observations of delirium.1 In The Life and Death of King John, the description of narrowing of the attentional field and development of delusional ideas following the poisoning of the King serves to remind us of the importance of drugs as a cause of this syndrome:O, vanity of sickness! Fierce extremes in their continuance will not feel themselves.Death, having preyed upon the outward parts, Leaves them invincible, and his seige is nowAgainst the mind; the which he pricks and woundsWith many legions of strange fantasies, Which in their throng and press to that last holdConfound themselves.2Another, more detailed account of delirium by Shakespeare is given in the death of Falstaff in Henry V:A parted ev'n just between twelve and one, ev'n at the turning o'th' tide—for after I

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