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Elizabethan Society was obsessed with madness, and no one character depicts society's view of the insane better than Tom O' Bedlam. This character originates from the famous British folk poem "Tom A Bedlam."(Campion) He is meant to depict the stereotypical Bedlamite, which is a former patient at the Bethlam Hospital for the insane in London, England. He also depicts beggars in general, as they were often thought to be lunatics as well. It contains mainly thieves' jargon and mad patter, which is what makes it such an accurate depiction of 17th century views towards begging insanity. Beltham Hospital was originally a charity, but it ended up being poorly funded. This forced them to give patents a very modest stipend for buying clothes and other necessities. Naturally, their patients were already incredibly poor because of their illnesses, and this modest allowance wasn't able to buy them very much. As a result of this lack of funding, many Bedlamites were forced to resort to begging in order to live, although the hospital was supposed to help them afford the costs of living. The Hospital also didn't have anywhere near the amount of space they needed to house these people, which forced many of them to be kicked out onto the streets with only the modest stipend. Thus, the Bedlamites' combination of lunacy and poverty forced many of them to wander the country of England constantly begging and spouting nonsense, usually until they died. (D’Israeli) The following is an analysis of the character based upon the poem. I feel it is important to understand Poor Tom in order to understand the character of Edgar. In the first verse of the poem, Mad Tom immediately exposes his madness and gives the reader an insight into the common ... ... middle of paper ... ...The fourth line is where it starts to get interesting. This line refers to the Greek myth of Endymion and Selene.(PERSON, YEAR) According to the Encyclopedia Mythica, Endymion was a shepherd, and the mortal lover of the moon goddess Selene. Zues was begged by Selene to make Endymion immortal so she could embrace him and kiss him goodnight forever, and her wish was granted. So, why does Edgar take on this persona of an mad and insane beggar? It is partly out of necessity, and partly because without his influence and favorability, he is reduced to the same level as Mad Tom. Shakespeare was trying to make a point with the character of Edgar, and that point was that even the most powerful man is no different than the least powerful man. On many levels they are equals. This is a message seen in another Shakespearean tragedy as well. That tragedy is of course Hamlet.

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