(Elements : Madman and Victim)
The origin of certain human actions lies hidden in fearful mystery; a mystery wherein the ancients believed they discerned the cruel smile of a god, and wherein our scientists, like the Chinese philosophers, believe they recognize the desires, prolonged and hereditary, of an ancestor. A startling awakening it is for Reason, when she finds on all sides her destiny strewn with corpses or with dishonors, which the Other, the unknown, has scattered at his pleasure. At this calamity, greater than death, how our kindred must weep and tremble; what terror and suspense must arise in their minds! And the victims, whose cries are lost in the mute heavens; the beloved ones pursued in unreasoning rage which they cannot comprehend! What variations of the inconscient are here: folly, possession, divine blindness, hypnosis, intoxication, forgetf ulness!
A (1)—Kinsmen Slain in Madness:—"Athamas" and the "Weavers of Nets" by Aeschylus; "Hercules Furens" by Euripides and by Seneca; "Ion" by Euripides.
(2)—A Lover Slain in Madness:—"La Fille Eliza," by Edmond de Goncourt; "La Tentation de Vivre" (Louis Ernault). A lover on the point of slaying his mistress in madness: Example from fiction: "La Bete Humaine." Familiar instances: Jack the Ripper; the Spaniard of Montmartre, etc.
(3)—Slaying or Injuring of a Person not Hated:— "Monsieur Bute" (Biollay, 1890). Destruction of a work: "Hedda Gabler."
B—Disgrace Brought Upon Oneself Through Madness:—Aeschylus' "Thracians"; Sophocles' "Ajax";to some extent "Saul" (Gide).
C—Loss of Loved Ones Brought About by Madness: —"Sakuntala" by Kalidasa, (form, amnesia). The philtre of Hagen, in Wagner.
D—Madness Brought on by Fear of Hereditary Insanity :—"L'Etau" (Andre Sardou, 1909);
Mad Monkton (Wilkie Collins, 1855).
The case of A (3), transferred to the past and treated according to a quid-pro-quo process, is that of one of the merriest comedies of the nineteenth century, "L'Affaire de la rue de Lourcine" by Labiche.
Numberless examples of this Sixteenth Situation have filled the disquieting pages of alienists' journals. Mental diseases, manias of various types, offer powerful dramatic effects which have not yet been exploited. These furnish, doubtless, but points of departure toward the Situation whose real investiture takes place at the moment of the hero's restoration to reason,— which is to say, to suffering. But if it ever happens that these three phases—the etiology of delirium, its access, and the return to a normal condition—are treated with equal strength and vigor, what an admirable work will result!
The first of the three stages, which bears upon the explanations of insanity, has been variously held to be divine (by the Greeks), demoniac (by the Church), and, in our own times, hereditary and pathological. Hypnotism has recently created another nuance; the hypnotist here forms a substitute,—a sorry one, it is true,—for divinity or demon. Drunkenness furnishes us a nuance equally unfamiliar to Greece; what is today more commonplace, and at the same time more terrible, than the disclosure of an important secret or the committing of a criminal act, while under the influence of drink ? back Eurydice. This nuance tends toward Situations XXXII and XXXIII, "Mistaken Jealousy" and "Judicial Error."
Is it necessary to say that all ties, all interests, all human desires, may be represented crossed and illuminated by the light of dementia ?
For the rest, this situation of Madness is far from having been neglected in our theater. Shakespeare, in his most personal dramas, has made use of insanity in the leading roles. Lady Macbeth is a somnambulist and dies in hysteria, her husband is a victim of hallucinations; the same may be said of Hamlet, who is a lypemaniac besides; of Timon also; Othello is an epileptic and King Lear completely deranged. It is on this account that the great William is so dangerous a model (Goethe would not read him more than once a year). He has played, to some extent, the same role as Michael-Angelo,—he has exaggerated the springs of action to the farthest limits of reality, beyond which his disciples fall immediately into mere ridiculous affectation.
On the other hand, if we except the pretext of studying insanity in itself, which "Ajax" has furnished from Astydamus to Ennius, and from Ennius to Emperor Augustus, I find nothing "Shakespearian" in the drama of antiquity except "Orestes." All other characters are in the enjoyment of their senses, and do not thereby become any less pathetic. "CEdipus" alone shows, in default of abnormality in the hero's psychological constitution, external events of an extraordinary character (a resource since so largely used by the Romanticists of 1830 and later). But the rest of the antique dramatic types are evolved in accordance with normal passions, and under objective conditions relatively common.
Strong emotion causes powerful arousal, which leads to a loss of rational thinking. Anger takes over and the person loses all conscious control, effectively becoming a different person for a while.
In stories, we are both horrified by this loss of control and humanity whilst also looking on in fascination and recognition of what we perhaps sometimes would like to do. We also may feel pity and sorrow for the afflicted person, realizing that perhaps it could also happen to us.
Some people do indeed let go and find release in this activity, although others pay the price. The modern treatment of this can be Anger Management classes, where the person learns to suppress, displace, sublimate or otherwise deflect their destructive urges