What are the similarities and differences between Animal Farm and Macbeth in terms of the theme of fear?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both of these works reveal how tyrannical leaders oppress their subjects and create an atmosphere of fear in their respective societies. Macbeth tyrannically rules over Scotland and cultivates a hysterical, fearful environment. He becomes bloodthirsty and murders anyone he considers a threat to his throne. Respected thanes flee Scotland, and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Both of these works reveal how tyrannical leaders oppress their subjects and create an atmosphere of fear in their respective societies. Macbeth tyrannically rules over Scotland and cultivates a hysterical, fearful environment. He becomes bloodthirsty and murders anyone he considers a threat to his throne. Respected thanes flee Scotland, and those left behind become victims at the hands of their maniacal ruler. Similarly, in Animal Farm, Napoleon establishes a hysterical environment on the farm, where his subjects live in constant fear. He holds public executions, and the other animals watch as Napoleon's dogs brutally murder defenseless victims.

Macbeth experiences a significant amount of fear and is plagued by anxiety after assassinating King Duncan. Macbeth fears that his position as king is threatened by his political enemies; he even attempts to kill Banquo and his son (and succeeds in killing the former) to protect his legacy. Macbeth also fears Macduff, whom the witches warn him about when he visits them for a second time. In contrast, Napoleon is portrayed as a completely callous, confident leader who is not worried about the animals rebelling against his leadership. Napoleon does not experience fear in the same way that Macbeth does, and he is more of a resolute, austere character. He is not maniacal, capricious, or bloodthirsty. He also manipulates his subjects' fear in a precise manner by holding public executions and constantly surrounding himself with his nine ferocious dogs.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In both plays, an individual driven by ambition is determined to be the uncontested ruler of his realm at all costs and throws morality away to gain power. In Macbeth, this individual is Macbeth, backed by Lady Macbeth, and in Animal Farm, it is the pig Napoleon.

Both rulers use fear and violence to enforce their will. Napoleon trains guard dogs to defend him and to kill his opponents. Macbeth murders the people he perceives as a threat, even if they are children.

In both works, the common, everyday souls who populate Scotland or Animal Farm fear their leader. In both works, their lives are made worse by their respective ruler, who, in both cases, puts his own needs ahead of theirs.

A difference is that Macbeth generates such a feeling of fear and loathing that there is a backlash against him; Duncan's legitimate heir assembles an army to invade Scotland and retake the throne. In contrast, at the end of Animal Farm, Napoleon's reign is more secure than ever. Rather than inviting invasion, Napoleon's rule invites admiration from the other farmers.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First of all, for each work you must think about what the author's message is concerning fear, since "fear" alone is not a theme.  In "Macbeth," the titular character arguably rules by fear, as is demonstrated when notable characters like Malcolm and Donalbain must flee the country in fear for their lives, and also when it is intimated through Lennox's dialogue with an unnamed Scottish lord that most Scots suspect Macbeth of the recent murders but are too afraid to do anything about it, even to talk about it openly.

The pigs in "Animal Farm" also rule by fear.  The other animals on the farm are easily influenced by the pigs' threats that Mr. Jones may come back to the farm if they are not obeyed.

Again, think about what is begin said about fear in each of these works.  You may want to analyze how the use of fear tactics from those in absolute power is corruptive.  Both Macbeth and the pigs certainly become corrupt due to their power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team