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Mental Disorder, Criminality and the Literary Imagination

NCJ Number
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 53 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2014 Pages: 290-308
Herschel Prins
Date Published
July 2014
19 pages
This article explores the use of a variety of literary sources as aids in understanding mentally ill offenders and offender-patients, with the case of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth being featured.
Although Lady Macbeth has often been viewed simplistically as evil and semi-demonic, this analysis focuses on the forensic mental health aspects that assist in understanding her and others like her. Lady Macbeth might be given a dual mental health diagnosis, i.e., personality disorder and mental illness. Had the Macbeths been indicted for their crimes in contemporary times, Lady Macbeth, had she lived, could have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, because she smeared the sleeping grooms with blood. Macbeth could have been charged not only with the killing of the grooms, but with procuring the murders of Banquo, the attempted murder of Fleance, and the killing of Lady Macduff and her children. This article suggests that by examining the behavior and dynamics of literary characters, the pressure is relieved to criminalize or demonize their behavior and to engage in a more unbiased scientific analysis of the mental health aspects of their criminal thinking and acting. 67 references and 7 suggested readings