Monika Dhillon

Research Scholar, Department of English and Cultural Studies

Panjab University, Chandigarh



Madness has been a continuous theme in Western literature from its beginning to the present time. Myths and legends appearing in Homer, the Bible, and ancient Greek drama contain primordial symbolizations of delusions, mania, and other bizarre forms of thought and behaviour. In Greek mythology, Dionysus is the God of irrational behaviour who induces madness, passion and fury. His influence and cults pose an alternative which threatens the more rational and severe apollonian aspects of Greek thought. My aim in the present paper is to trace the nature of mental derangement, psychological experience and Dionysian frenzy of fictive characters in Shakespeare designated as mad and evil. I hope to demonstrate that literary interpretations of madness reflect and subvert cultural, political, religious and psychological assumptions of their time. There is a need to differentiate between clinical insanity and creative insanity of poets and intellectuals. I propose to emphasize the importance of teaching Shakespeare in contemporary India, terrorized with political xenophobia and ridden with debates on intolerance.

Key Words: Myth, Dionysus, Shakespeare, Madness, Evil, Subversion, Xenophobia, Intolerance


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Poetics of Madness and Subversion: A Study of the Cult of Dionysus in Shakespeare