Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder & Lady Macbeth

Examines disorder & tragic Shakespearean character as one fictional victim. Looks at mental & physical symptoms, rituals and treatment.

This paper is a study on one of the most common mental illnesses, obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, and one of its most famous fictional sufferers, William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, whose compulsive need to wash her hands of an imagined contamination exhibits one of the disorder’s best known symptoms. Shakespeare dramatized her story centuries before OCD had been identified as a psychiatric disorder and its origins were understood by the medical community, yet he managed to provide character details that are consistent with the diagnosis of an obsessive-compulsive personality. Though she may possibly have been able to hide her need to wash her hands continually before the traumatic event of her complicity in the murder of the king that brings her bizarre behavior out into the open, this disturbing situation either aggravates the behavior or prevents.

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