Mental Health through Literature

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The portrayal of mental health in the arts has always had a profound impact on how people and societies think, feel, and relate to issues and people dealing with mental illness. This is why it is important to begin thinking more openly, actively, and critically about your own views on mental health and human behavior—particularly when reading books, watching movies, or dealing directly with issues in your own life.


Go to and read Renaissance Views of Madness: King Lear, an essay that analyzes madness as depicted in one of literature's earliest and most captivating portraits of mental illness.

Read the article found on this page and answer the questions below on the student sheet your teacher has given you.

  • What evidence is given suggesting a mental disorder in the character of King Lear?
  • Describe the character of King Lear, as revealed in the essay.
  • How was King Lear's behavior viewed by other characters and by society at large?
  • Would that behavior be regarded in the same way today? Why or why not?

Knowledge Check

Think about the resources that you have explored in this lesson and in the other lessons about mental health. Write a short essay addressing the following questions: What can we learn from literature about how mental health is viewed in a particular time and place? In what ways can the arts further our understanding of madness in different periods? Use specific examples from your readings to support your conclusions.

This esheet is a part of the Mental Health 3: Mental Health through Literature lesson.

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