Main Entry: bed·lam .. Pronunciation: ..ˈbed-ləm.... Etymology: Bedlam, popular name for the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, London, an insane asylum, from Middle English Bedlem Bethlehem.. Date:1522.. 1: obsolete: madman , lunatic.. 2: often capitalized: a lunatic asylum.. 3: a place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion.... Eighteenth century Bethlem was most notably portrayed in a scene from William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress (1735), the story of a rich merchant's son whose immoral living causes him to end up in a ward at Bethlem. This reflects the view of the time that madness was a result of moral weakness, leading to "moral insanity" being used as a common diagnosis... The lunatics were first called 'patients' in 1700, and "curable" and "incurable" wards were opened in 1725-34. .... In the 18th century people used to go to Bedlam to stare at the lunatics. For a penny one could peer into their cells, view the freaks of the "show of Bedlam" and laugh at their antics, generally of a sexual nature or violent fights. Entry was free on the first Tuesday of the month. Visitors were permitted to bring long sticks with which to poke and enrage the inmates. In 1814, there were 96,000 such visits.