Macbeth says "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing." What do you suppose he means by that?I'm doing an three page essay over that quote, depicting...

Macbeth says "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing." What do you suppose he means by that?

I'm doing an three page essay over that quote, depicting each and every line but I don't know what that line means. Help!!

Asked on by custard12

4 Answers

brandih's profile pic

brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted on

The Shakespeare quotes section on eNotes has an explanation of this quotation that can be found at the link below:

ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Macbeth utters these lines after being told of his wife's death. To truly understand them, you must look at them in context. The full thought of which this lines is a part is:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.(30) 

Earlier in this soliloquy, Macbeth has also said:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this trivial pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted
The way to dusty death for fools. Out, out, brief candle!

In other words, life is meaningless. It is lasts for a brief time and is full of "sound and fury", but in the end, nothing lasts. Life, a "walking shadow", something inconsequential, really doesn't amount to anything. Macbeth is realizing that all his machinations to become king and to keep the throne have come to nothing. He "made a lot of noise" and created quite a story, fought quite a battle, but in the end, nothing is to come of it. 

pathos's profile pic

pathos | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

One meaning is: to live on the periphery of life, or materially, or physically. The ultimate peek for those with outward looking eyes is to be a king (today it is a president). Through this position we can make much fury and noise, i.e. be influential on a physical level. Or we can be a professor and seek to influence that way but all investments in fame and fortune and seeking somebodyness and approval in the eyes of others, or better to say defining ourselves through others opinions no matter how grand, no matter if are president obama are 'a tale told by an idiot'.

Macbeth was content with who he was but when the future was dangled and an IDEA of what a good life should be he fell from the path.


tanav12345's profile pic

tanav12345 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

It means that he should go do a backflip of the wall and then do a 360 temperrr shot silent no-scope pistolswitch tiltscreen