Mental Health & Hamlet

Many people are not aware that bipolar depression has become a silent cancer in America. Yet, at the same time, how often do we hear stories of “road rage” and/or read about how many young people are addicted to drugs and alcohol? All the time. We just fail to make the connection.

Bipolar depression, according to scientists, is often caused by a traumatic event in childhood that later manifests itself as bipolar disorder in one’s early adult life. Divorce or a death of a loved one are two major traumatic events that seem to trigger bipolar episodes. The divorce rate in the United States hovers close to 50% however, not all divorces cause bipolar disorders. So it is not as simple as that.

In the case of Edward de Vere, his father died when Edward was about 12 years old and Edward was sent to London to live at Cecil House where Edward’s maternal uncle, Arthur Golding also lived. Edward was raised by William Cecil who worked as the secretary of state and treasurer for Queen Elizabeth I.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder or what is sometimes called in the past, “manic depression” tend to have giant mood swings and anger issues. They engage in reckless behavior, often indulge in frequent bouts of drinking, sex and violence. If Queen Elizabeth saw his behavior first hand or knew about it, there is no way she would have allowed Edward to write plays under his own name.

Arthur Golding translated Ovid’s 15 book poem, The Metamorphosis from Latin to English, and legend has it, that Edward de Vere’s Latin was so good, that even at age 13, Golding had the boy translate the first four books of Ovid’s masterpiece to keep his mind off his parents’ death. (Tragically, after Edward’s father died, his mother quickly remarried, and then two years later, she passed away too.)

Interestingly, in 1588, when England defeated the Spanish Armada, Edward de Vere helped pilot a ship. When he returned home however, he discovered that his wife, Anne Cecil de Vere had died. The two had quarreled frequently, most likely due to his mental illness, but after he death, Edward de Vere dove into a deep depression. He drank heavily, gambled and lost custody of his three daughters.

My thought is that when he finally came to his senses, Edward de Vere began to translate the works of Ovid again. It had helped keep his mind off the deaths of his parents in his youth. Now in his late 30’s, de Vere created his own version of Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, but signed them with the pen name “William Shakespeare” and sent them off to Henry Wriothesley – who used to also live at Cecil House under the care of William Cecil.

Hamlet, then can be seen as an autobiographical account of de Vere’s life. Hamlet’s father died when Hamlet was young and his mother remarried. Hamlet feels himself slowly going mad and talks about it. The character, Polonius who offers tips to his son Laertes, is like William Cecil who wrote a book that was published in 1616 called “Certain Precepts” which included wisdom like, “Brevity is the soul of wit” and “Give every man thy ear but few thy voice,” and “Spend a significant sum of money on clothes, because appearance is important in France.” But Cecil’s book was published in the year 1616, the year Shakespeare died, and Hamlet was written and performed around 1599.

So, the question is this: how did William Shakespeare, who lived 98 miles away from London, know William Cecil well enough to put his precepts into a play that was written in 1599?