Most people when they think about William Shakespeare do not associate him with having a mental illness or suffering from manic depression.
But if one carefully reads the Sonnets and plays, you will find these symptoms of the “real” writer. For example, 20 of the sonnets talk about feelings of depression and lack of sleep. The topics of death and low feelings of self-worth are found in 12 sonnets. But are these actual sympoms? Do bipolar people feel MORE concerned about death and self-worth than the average person? Read on.
What about mania? Mania is defined as an “abnormally elevated arousal, affect, and energy level.” How can we tell this with Shakespeare? Literary output might hold a clue.
For example, author James Shapiro, who is a well-regarded scholar on the life of William Shakespeare, stated in the year 1599, William Shakespeare wrote four of his greatest plays.
( Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Hamlet) while at the same time he was helping to build the Globe theater.
London was at least a two or three-day journey via horseback to Stratford-upon-Avon.
It would take most people
two three years to write one play like “As You Like It” and the Globe theater was built in a record 6 months’ time.
In fact, if you think about it, rebuilding a theater while writing four plays of the caliber of Shakespeare IS really too much work for one man.
Two men could do it. One man could be living in Stratford-upon-Avon and helping build the theater in six months while another person lives in London. He could be writing, rehearsing and getting the four plays ready for the theater. This makes sense.
As you probably know by now, I believe that Edward de Vere ( pronounced “vayer” back in those days) was the person in London writing the plays.
Edward de Vere was known for being overbearing to others. He verbally and mentally abused his wife, he was accused of having sex with men and animals and he sobbed uncontrollably before his guardian, William Cecil.
So, with all that in mind, I want to talk about ten symptoms of what today we call bipolar depression.
- Extraordinarily Happy Feelings. Happy feelings are often experienced with an intensity not common to people without the condition. Furthermore, after the manic state ends, people with bipolar disorder often experience a jarring downward spiral that results in depression. In Sonnet 29, the author writes: Haply I think on thee, and then my state,Like to the lark at break of day arising…From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate.For thy sweet love remembered such wealth bringsThat then I scorn to change my state with kings.
- Self-Regard Fluctuations: The bipolar individual’s self-regard and self-esteem jump from an extremely high self-regard to feelings of worthlessness or vice-versa. Again, Sonnet 29: When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyesI all alone beweep my outcast state,And trouble deaf heav’n with my bootless cries,And look upon myself, and curse my fate,Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,With what I most enjoy contented least;Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
- Lack of Focus: Many people with bipolar disorder move from one task to another as thoughts drift from happiness to sadness or anxiety. They may break down and begin to sob uncontrollably.
- Extra-Rapid Speech: Some individuals with bipolar disorder will put an extra emphasis on syllables and may not even seem to pause for breath. They will speak over another person and speak in a loud or exaggerated voice. Without meaning to, they are what one would call “overbearing”.
- State of Depression: Always feeling tired and lethargic; bipolar people may feel tempted to remain in bed for hours without the energy to get up. This state is one of the common causes of misdiagnosis of bipolar because it can easily be mistaken for depression.
- Suicidal Thoughts: Suicidal thoughts are common for individuals with bipolar disorder. They might often talk about death, and even begin putting their affairs in order. Suicidal thoughts are an indication of mental illness. “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Hamlet says and here we find Hamlet thinking about suicide.
- Mixed Mania: People who have strong feelings of both happy and sadness often result in a combustible mixture that causes irritability. It makes the person easily impatient with others. Despite the extreme nature of this symptom, it is another that can easily be overlooked and mistaken for general moodiness.
- Impulsiveness: making rash decisions without consideration. Bipolar individuals may spend money excessively, take unnecessary risks such as driving too fast, playing dangerous sports, (such as jousting) and engaging in sexual indiscretions (Edward de Vere was infamous for his extravagant spending AND his sexual indiscretions). Suicidal thoughts and tendencies can also play into this risky behavior. People with bipolar disorder are ten to 20 times more likely than the general population to commit suicide.
- Abnormal Sleep Patterns: during feelings of manic energy, the individual may feel they require only two or three hours of sleep each night, still maintaining their high energy and mood without experiencing fatigue. With depression, on the other hand, the person is prone to sleeping too much. Again, read the Sonnets. Several times the author despairs of getting a good night’s sleep!
- Alcohol Abuse: Alcoholism is most common amongst people with a bipolar condition. During the manic phase, the bipolar person may consume copious amounts of alcohol to calm overwrought senses or to indulge in euphoric celebration. During depression, alcohol may seem to ease the pain and enable bipolar individuals to escape reality, but their use often worsens symptoms and leads to other problems. (Note: when Edward de Vere returned home after the English had defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, he learned that his wife had died after giving birth. De Vere fell into a deep depression and drank so heavily that he lost custody of his three daughters to his wife’s family.)
Some people will claim this is unfair to Edward de Vere because he died over 450 years ago.
But back in his time, did people suffer from bipolar depression? Yes. The symptoms of Edward de Vere were the same as today but doctors back then did not know how to properly treat it.
Also, did Stratford ever exhibit any “odd” behavior? No.
Did he scream during a tennis match? No.
Did he pick up a sword to fight his enemies in the streets of London? No
As a businessman living in Stratford-upon-Avon, WS bought and sold grain, purchased real estate and kept his mouth shut. Ben Jonson referred to him as “gentle Shakespeare”.
But does this jive with the writer of the sonnets who complains often about “insomnia,” despair and depression?
For more reasons why Edward de Vere makes a more likely candidate for being the author, read Shakey’s Madness found Store
One more thing: someone asked me this question: What exactly do you expect to get out of this? Answer: Nothing. I do not care if people believe me or not. The town of Stratford-upon-Avon can continue to celebrate the man from Stratford as the *true* author and continue their tours for Anne Hathaway’s cottage. It is fine with me. My goal is to help bring awareness to bipolar disorder by outing the world’s greatest writer for bipolar disorder!