How does Shakespeare present the theme of madness in the play Macbeth? What would Shakespeare's audience think about the play, referring to this theme? What would a contemporary audience think?

Expert Answers info

lmkopf eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write78 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and History

Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth depicts the title character and his wife as individuals both obsessed with and destroyed by the acquisition of power. Lady Macbeth’s guilt drives her to madness, while Macbeth’s desperate attempts to hold onto his ill-gained position induces his descent into insanity.

Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with the concept of the Great Chain of Being, in which the world exists in a hierarchy from the nonliving rocks to God himself, each entity with more agency being superior to the other. This meant that peasants were lower on the hierarchy than noblemen, and the highest man (just below angels and God) was the king. To destroy the king meant to disturb the natural order of the world; hence, the strange supernatural events described in Act II, scene iv. Ross mentions that even Duncan’s horses have gone crazy and tried to eat each other, and there is a prevailing darkness that indicates that something has gone awry. When the play ends with

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 749 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Angie Waters eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,386 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Math, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial