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[Perspectives] Suicide

In his 1813 verse tragedy The Giaour Lord Byron compared “the mind that broods o’er guilty woes” with a “scorpion girt by fire”, who uses “the sting she nourished for her foes” to end her suffering before she is consumed by the flames. Byron—himself no stranger to suicidal impulses—drew solace from a classical view of suicide as an honourable response to an unendurable existence. Beyond his Romantic circle European cultural attitudes to suicide were shifting, under the influence of Enlightenment legal humanitarianism and the growing status of medicine.