Mental health was unheard of in the seventeenth century. So, it was a bold move on Shakespeare’s part in writing a play with subtle mentions mental health. Today, people know more about mental health than they did back in the Elizabethan era.
Shakespeare added hints towards mental health or post-traumatic stress disorder more specifically through methods of characterization. In Macbeth, the character Lady Macbeth shows symptoms of PTSD, after killing King Duncan, and Banquo. Though mental health was not very well-known back in the seventeenth century, there was a little more information in the nineteen hundreds. After wars soldiers who survived the traumatic experience suffered from “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, now more known as PTSD. The causes of PTSD are someone who goes through a terrible event or tragedy is haunted by the memories of the event.
There has been a lot of research and data collected over time to better understand PTSD; “A number of epidemiologic survey studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is twice as common in women as in men; in addition, there are gender differences in the type of trauma exposure and presentation of illness” (Brady). One of many common symptoms of PTSD is emotional detachment. After, Banquo has been killed Macbeth sees his ghost at a dinner party. Lady Macbeth does not show an ounce of empathy for her husband’s mental state and makes up a lie about some disease he’s been suffering from since childhood. Macbeth also notices her ability to keep her composure in the situation and states; “He is amazed that she can “keep the natural ruby” of her cheeks when he is so distressed” (3.
4.115). Another common symptom of PTSD is flashbacks, and later on, in the play, Lady Macbeth is seen sleepwalking, and suffering from a flashback of the killing of Banquo; “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” (5.
1.57-59). Though she is poised and composed in front of her husband Macbeth, she still is human and has a guilty conscience. Shakespeare made a bold move by putting subtle hints towards mental health in the play Macbeth. Mental health was not well-known or properly treated back in the seventeenth century. So, by having such a well-known writer, write about something so important such as mental health gives some insight into how it was viewed many centuries ago.
To be more specific people see the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD through the mental decline of Lady Macbeth.