In medieval and early modern literature, people with psychological disabilities are commonly represented as nuisances, monsters, and pitiable wretches. This ableist paradigm is partly attributable to the fact that ‘mad’ characters evoke economic anxieties rooted in the socioeconomic climate of the societies in which the respective texts are created. Fictional ‘madmen’ are used as symbols of or scapegoats for economic problems such as rising poverty, price fluctuations, wealth inequality, and evolving inheritance systems. This exacerbates a prevailing belief that the psychologically disabled are undeserving of respect and care, or even that they are less than human.
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