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From fear to anxiety in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Abstract : Jean Delumeau, in his seminal history of fear (Fear in the West, first published in 1978) points to the social configurations of fear in early modern societies: a nobleman was by definition fearless, while people of the “Vulgar sort” (Montaigne, “Of fear”) were taxed with being excessively fearful and cowardly. Fear, “a servile and base passion” (Coeffeteau, A Table of Human Passions, 1620) was thus determined by its traditional reverse, bravery, and placed within that dialectic frame. That social opposition structures most early modern discourses about fear and informs a vision of fear as being characteristic of the popular masses, while bravery is associated with aristocratic individuality, desire for fame and heroism. Bearing in mind this dominant discourse, I would like to look at the ways in which Shakespearean drama undermines this social framework by staging humble representations of acts of bravery, while at the same time using fear as a fundamental basis for the modern subject, no longer a defect but as a defining trait of humankind. Fear becomes a source of fiction on the Shakespearean stage.
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https://hal.univ-reims.fr/hal-02510946
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 12:30:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, June 19, 2020 - 6:27:38 PM

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Christine Sukic. From fear to anxiety in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, Société Française Shakespeare, 2018, Shakespeare et la peur, ⟨10.4000/shakespeare.4141⟩. ⟨hal-02510946⟩

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