Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Changing Portrayal of Epilepsy in the Theatre

Version 1 : Received: 31 March 2021 / Approved: 2 April 2021 / Online: 2 April 2021 (11:12:17 CEST)

How to cite: White, M.; Simpson, D. The Changing Portrayal of Epilepsy in the Theatre. Preprints 2021, 2021040043. White, M.; Simpson, D. The Changing Portrayal of Epilepsy in the Theatre. Preprints 2021, 2021040043.


The theatre has a tremendous ability to influence public discourse and shape societal opinions. And medical conditions can provide writers with a rich scope for plot development and characters with challenges to overcome. In particular, the neurological condition epilepsy has many possibilities with historical beliefs that people were possessed by gods and devils and the sudden, disabling seizures characteristic of the condition. But used unsympathetically, it can promote misunderstanding within audiences, resulting in discrimination for people with the condition. This review looks back at how epilepsy has been portrayed throughout history. How the Greeks portrayed epilepsy as a punishment from the gods. Then later, how Shakespeare utilised epilepsy to suggest characters as uncontrollable. However, we finish on a message of hope as modern writers look to collaboration to ensure accurate and honest portrayals of epilepsy, improving public understanding and removing many of the stigmas that have dogged the condition.


Epilepsy, Theatre, Neurology, Cultural History, Drama, Engagement, Medical Communication


Arts and Humanities, Theater

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