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Recently a tweet from singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash went viral declaring that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined for plague.1 Although the words were meant to quicken our pens, they moved me instead to spend some solitary hours outside the hospital rereading this monumental play. Widely considered to be Shakespeare’s most psychologically nuanced tragedy, King Lear tells the story of an elderly king who unfairly divides his kingdom, is betrayed by his heirs, and descends into madness. The play has given me chills many times over, but I never appreciated Lear raving in the storm as I do now in the storm of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although Lear spends much of the play wandering on a desolate heath, his confrontation with an unspeakable chaos that dismantles the old order mirrors the existential dread of our moment. As a pediatrics intern training in New York City, I had turned to the play in search of the comfort of a well-worn story. What emerged were new lessons that reflect the different world and perspective we now inhabit.
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Corresponding Author: Anoushka Sinha, MD, MS, Pediatric Residency Training Program, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 630 W 168th St, CHN-517, New York, NY 10032 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6186
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
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