Macbeth’s Idiot and Faulkner’s Compsons


  • Bridget Bartlett University of Mississippi



William Faulkner’s use of a line from Macbeth for the title of The Sound and The Fury is a well-known instance of Shakespearean appropriation, but in this note I uncover the unrecognized appropriation of that line as it signifies when historicized. Specifically, I highlight the class dimensions that appear prominent in the Macbeth line when we understand the word “idiot” as the play’s first audiences did, and I demonstrate how Faulkner’s appropriation of the line as it signified in Jacobean English informs and reflects the central themes of The Sound and The Fury. Because early modern understandings of class as a largely hereditary category overlapped significantly with contemporary lineal constructions of race, Faulkner’s appropriation of the historicized line with its emphasis on class is especially significant for the interactions of race and class that animate Faulkner’s fiction as well as studies of appropriative uses of Shakespeare.

Author Biography

Bridget Bartlett, University of Mississippi

Bridget M. Bartlett is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Mississippi, where they teach literature. Their research focuses on early modern neurodiversity and the role of neurodivergence in how writers of the period constructed racial and national differences.