Hypothesis that King Lear had Dementia with Lewy Bodies

An article titled “Portrayal of Neurological Illness and Physicians in the Works of Shakespeare” was recently published.  I’ve copied the abstract below.  Part of the article addresses the hypothesis that King Lear had Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

There’s a chart in the article that indicates what characters in what plays had what neurological diagnosis, and who made that (modern) diagnosis.  Two examples are:  Achilles, a character is “Troilus and Cressida” had signs of parkinsonism and Lord Say, a character in “King Henry VI, part 2” had signs of tremor.

The abstract is below.



Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience. 2010;27:216-226. Epub 2010 Apr 6.

Portrayal of Neurological Illness and Physicians in the Works of Shakespeare.

Matthews BR.
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, Indianapolis, Ind., USA.

William Shakespeare was arguably one of the most prolific writers of all time. The topics explored in his works include both physicians and neurological illnesses. In addition to a review of the portrayal of neurological diseases such as dementia, epilepsy, parkinsonism, and parasomnias, this article describes the roles of physicians in Shakespeare’s plays. Furthermore, a novel hypothesis that King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s more tragic figures, suffered from dementia with Lewy bodies is explored based on evidence from the dialogue of the drama.

Copyright © 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel.

PubMed ID#: 20375533   (see pubmed.gov for the abstract)