Linguistic Taboos and the "Unscene" of Fear in Macbeth


Macbeth In both the Oresteia and Macbeth fear affects the language of drama deeply. It dislocates its causes off stage to unseen scenes, and distantiates or disguises it tropically. Figurative substitution through metaphors or euphemisms corresponds linguistically to the dramatic remove from sight of terrifying actions, as, for example, the King’s murder, a significantly unshowable scene on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage, precisely as it was on the Attic one before them. This article will discuss strategies of linguistic and scenic occultation in Macbeth within the context of the political debate of the age on tyranny and regicide. In particular, it will focus upon a peculiar treatment of Marjorie Garber’s concept of “unscene” (““The Rest Is Silence”: Ineffability and the “Unscene” in Shakespeare’s Plays,” 1984): the dramatization of an invisible scene as the tyrant’s extroversion of his own fears, dislocating taboo scenes to the hallucinatory space of the character’s own internal vision on stage. Seneca’s version of Cassandra’s ecstasy is key to an understanding of the continuity between Aeschylus and Shakespeare. The article will discuss how the dramatization of such strategies of dislocation and indirect unveiling entails interrogating the limits of desire and human resistance to it as well as exploring the way in which desire goes beyond what is legitimate and, consequently includes, or brings along, fear of retribution. Staging strategies of resistance to both desire and fear was Shakespeare’s way to explore in depth the possibility to question and reposition our moral boundaries while testing its effects on stage at the intersection of voco-visual ineffability.

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