On a Wednesday evening in April 1782, Mrs Fitzherbert of Northamptonshire went to Drury Lane Theatre with friends to see The Beggar's Opera. When the popular actor Mr Bannister made his first appearance, dressed outlandishly in the role of `Polly', the entire audience was thrown into uproarious laughter. Unfortunately, Mrs Fitzherbert was unable to suppress the laugh that seized her, and she was forced to leave the theatre before the end of the second act. As the Gentleman's Magazine reported the following week: `Not being able to banish the figure from her memory, she was thrown into hysterics, which continued without intermission until she expired on Friday morning.'
--"Nine People Who Died Laughing," from The Book of Lists