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In
works of art A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an artistic creation of aesthetics, aesthetic value. Except for "work of art", which may be used of any work regarded as art in its widest sense, including works fr ...
, the adjective macabre ( or ; ) means "having the quality of having a grim or
ghastly Ghastly may refer to: *"Ghastly" Graham Ingels, a comic book and magazine illustrator with EC Comic *Ghastly (DJ), American DJ from Los Angeles *Sir Graves Ghastly character created by Cleveland-born actor Lawson J. Deming (1913-2007) for the popul ...
atmosphere". The macabre works to emphasize the details and symbols of
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...

death
. The term also refers to works particularly gruesome in nature.


History

The quality is not often found in
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
and
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
writers, though there are traces of it in
Apuleius Apuleius (; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170 AD) was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communicatio ...

Apuleius
and the author of the
Satyricon The ''Satyricon'', ''Satyricon'' ''liber'' (''The Book of Satyrlike Adventures''), or ''Satyrica'', is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ...

Satyricon
. Outstanding instances in
English literature Literature written in the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by ...

English literature
include the works of
John Webster John Webster (c. 1580 – c. 1632) was an English Jacobean dramatist A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play (theatre), plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, pleġa, plæġa ...

John Webster
,
Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Louis Stevenson (born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson; 13 November 1850 – 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, essayist, poet and travel writer. He is best known for works such as ''Treasure Island ''Treasure Island'' (origi ...

Robert Louis Stevenson
,
Mervyn Peake Mervyn Laurence Peake (9 July 1911 – 17 November 1968) was an English writer, artist, poet, and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the '' Gormenghast'' books. The three works were part of what Peake conceived ...
,
Charles Dickens Charles John Huffam Dickens (; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian e ...

Charles Dickens
,
Roald Dahl Roald Dahl (13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990) was a British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter, and wartime fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. Dahl was born in Wales ...

Roald Dahl
,
Thomas Hardy Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Literary realism, Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, including the poetr ...

Thomas Hardy
and
Cyril Tourneur Cyril Tourneur (; died 28 February 1626) was an English soldier, diplomat and dramatist A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play (theatre), plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old English plæġ, p ...
. In
American literature American literature is literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In ...
, authors whose work feature this quality include
Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (; born Edgar Poe; January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary criticism, literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and ...

Edgar Allan Poe
,
H. P. Lovecraft Howard Phillips Lovecraft (; August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer of weird and horror fiction Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon ...
, and
Stephen King Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of , , , , , and novels. Described as the "King of Horror", a play on his surname and a reference to his high standing in pop culture, his books have sold more than 350  ...
. The word has gained its significance from its use in French as '' la danse macabre'' for the
allegorical As a literary device A narrative technique (known for literary fiction Literary fiction is a term used in the book-trade to distinguish novels that are regarded as having literary merit, from most commercial or "genre" fiction. However, the b ...

allegorical
representation of the ever-present and universal power of death, known in English as the Dance of Death and in German as ''Totentanz''. The typical form which the allegory takes is that of a series of images in which
Death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...
appears, either as a dancing
skeleton A skeleton is a structural frame that supports an animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consu ...

skeleton
or as a shrunken shrouded corpse, to people representing every age and condition of life, and leads them all in a dance to the
grave A grave is a location where a dead body A cadaver or corpse is a dead human body that is used by medical students A medical school is a tertiary educational institution, or part of such an institution, that teaches medicine, and award ...
. Of the numerous examples painted or sculptured on the walls of cloisters or church yards through
medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, few remain except in
woodcut Woodcut is a relief printing Image:Principle of Relief Printing.svg, The basic concept of relief printing. ''A'' is the block or matrix; ''B'' is the paper; the thick black lines are the inked areas. (The thickness of the ink is greatly exagg ...
s and
engraving Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin Burin may refer to: Tools * Burin (engraving), a tool with a narrow sharp face at the tip used for engraving and other pu ...

engraving
s. *The series at
Basel , french: link=no, Bâlois(e), it, Basilese , neighboring_municipalities= Allschwil , neighboring_municipalities= Baselland (BL), Binningen, Switzerland, Binningen, Buschwiller (FR-68), Hégenheim (FR-68), Neuwiller (FR-68), Oberwil, Basel- ...

Basel
originally at the
Klingenthal Klingenthal is a town in the Vogtland region, in the Free State of Saxony, south-eastern Germany. It is situated directly on the border with the Czech Republic opposite the Czech town of Kraslice, 29 km southeast of Plauen, and 33 km n ...

Klingenthal
, a nunnery in Little Basel, dated from the beginning of the 14th century. In the middle of the 15th century this was moved to the churchyard of the Predigerkloster at Basel, and was restored, probably by Hans Kluber, in 1568. The collapse of the wall in 1805 reduced it to fragments, and only drawings of it remain. * A Dance of Death in its simplest form still survives in the Marienkirche at
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German Low German or Low Saxon (in the language itself: , and other names; german: Plattdeutsch, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language variety spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the ...

Lübeck
as 15th-century painting on the walls of a chapel. Here there are 24 figures in couples, between each is a dancing Death linking the groups by outstretched hands, the whole ring being led by a Death playing on a pipe. * In
Tallinn Tallinn (; ) is the most populous, primate A primate ( ) (from Latin , from 'prime, first rank') is a eutherian mammal constituting the Taxonomy (biology), taxonomic order (biology), order Primates (). Primates arose 85–55 millio ...

Tallinn
(Reval), Estonia there is a well-known Danse Macabre painting by
Bernt Notke (c. 1440 – before May 1509) was a late Gothic artist, working in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countries/states refer to slightly different combinations of cou ...
displayed at
St. Nikolaus Church (Niguliste)
St. Nikolaus Church (Niguliste)
, dating the end of 15th century. * At
Dresden Dresden (, ; wen, label=Sorbian languages, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Drježdźany) is the capital city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Saxony and its second most populous city, after Leipzig. It is the List of cities in German ...

Dresden
there is a sculptured life-size series in the old Neustädter Kirchhoff, moved here from the palace of Duke George in 1701 after a fire. * At
Rouen Rouen (, ; or ) is a city on the River Seine in northern France. It is the prefecture of the Regions of France, region of Normandy (administrative region), Normandy and the Departments of France, department of Seine-Maritime. Formerly one of ...

Rouen
in the cloister of St Maclou there also remains a sculptured ''danse macabre''. * There was a celebrated fresco of the subject in the cloister of Old St Pauls in
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
. *There was another in the now destroyed Hungerford Chapel at
Salisbury Salisbury ( ) is a cathedral city City status in the United Kingdom is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of t ...

Salisbury
, of which only a single woodcut, "Death and the Gallant", remains. *Of the many engraved reproductions of the Old St Pauls fresco, the most famous is the series drawn by Holbein. The theme continued to inspire artists and musicians long after the medieval period,
Schubert's
Schubert's
string quartet '' Death and the Maiden'' (1824) being one example, and
Camille Saint-Saëns Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (; 9 October 183516 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectu ...

Camille Saint-Saëns
' tone poem Danse macabre, op. 40 (1847).
In the 20th century,
Ingmar Bergman Ernst Ingmar Bergman (14 July 1918 – 30 July 2007) was a Swedish film director, screenwriter, producer and playwright. Widely considered one of the most accomplished and influential filmmakers of all time, Bergman's highly regarded work ...
's 1957 film ''
The Seventh Seal ''The Seventh Seal'' ( sv, Det sjunde inseglet) is a 1957 Swedish historical fantasy film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set in Sweden during the Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or th ...
'' has a personified Death, and could thus count as macabre. The origin of this allegory in painting and sculpture is disputed. It occurs as early as the 14th century, and has often been attributed to the overpowering consciousness of the presence of death due to the
Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bact ...

Black Death
and the miseries of the
Hundred Years' War The Hundred Years’ War (french: link=yes, La guerre de Cent Ans; 1337–1453) was a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of and during the . It originated from disputed claims to the between the English and the French roy ...
. It has also been attributed to a form of the
Morality Morality (from ) is the differentiation of intention Intentions are mental states in which the agent commits themselves to a course of action. Having the plan to visit the zoo tomorrow is an example of an intention. The action plan is the '' ...

Morality
, a dramatic dialogue between Death and his victims in every station of life, ending in a dance off the stage. The origin of the peculiar form the allegory has taken has also been found in the dancing skeletons on late Roman
sarcophagi A sarcophagus (plural sarcophagi or sarcophaguses) is a box-like funeral A funeral is a ceremony A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed acc ...

sarcophagi
and mural paintings at
Cumae Cumae ( grc, Κύμη, (Kumē) or or ; it, Cuma) was the first ancient Greek colony on the mainland of Italy, founded by settlers from Euboea Euboea (, ) or Evia (, ; el, Εύβοια Euboea (, ) or Evia (, ; el, Εύβοια ...

Cumae
or
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenan ...

Pompeii
, and a false connection has been traced with "The Triumph of Death", attributed to
Orcagna 200px, Statue of Andrea Orcagna in the Uffizi outside gallery in Florence carved by Pietro Bazzanti e Figlio Art Gallery, Florence">alt=Statue of Andrea Orcagna in the Uffizi outside gallery in Florence carved by Niccolò Bazzanti at Pietro Bazzant ...

Orcagna
, in the
Campo Santo
Campo Santo
at
Pisa Pisa ( , or ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public ser ...

Pisa
.


Etymology

The
etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identi ...
of the word "macabre" is uncertain. According to
Gaston Paris Bruno Paulin Gaston Paris (; 9 August 1839 – 5 March 1903) was a French writer and scholar. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature ) , image = Nobel Prize.png , caption = , awarded_for = Outstanding contributions in lit ...

Gaston Paris
it first occurs in the form "macabre" in Jean le Fèvre's ''Respit de la mort'' (1376), ''Je fis de Macabré la danse'', and he takes this accented form to be the true one, and traces it in the name of the first painter of the subject. The more usual explanation is based on the Latin name, ''Machabaeorum chorea'' (Dance of
Maccabees The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees ( he, מַכַּבִּים ''Makabīm'' or he, מַקַבִּים, ''Maqabīm''; or ''Maccabaei''; el, Μακκαβαῖοι, ''Makkabaioi''), were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of J ...
). The seven tortured brothers, with their
mother A mother is the female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, that produces non-mobile ovum, ova (egg cells). Barring rare medical conditions, most female mammals, including female humans, have two X chro ...
and
Eleazar Eleazar (; ) or Elʽazar was a priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the Sacred rite, sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deity, deities. They also have the au ...
(
2 Maccabees The Second Book of Maccabees, also called 2 Maccabees, is a deuterocanonical The deuterocanonical books (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), of ...
6 and 7) were prominent figures on this hypothesis in the supposed dramatic dialogues.The
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary The ''Shorter Oxford English Dictionary'' (''SOED'') is an English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structure ...
(Fifth edition; 2002) states that the origin of "macabre" perhaps has reference to "a miracle play containing the slaughter of the Maccabees." Volume 1, p. 1659.
Other connections have been suggested, as for example with St. Macarius, or Macaire, the hermit, who, according to
Vasari Giorgio Vasari (, also , ; 30 July 1511 – 27 June 1574) was an Italian painter, architect, engineer, writer, and historian, best known for his ''Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects ''The Lives of the Most Excell ...

Vasari
, is to be identified with the figure pointing to the decaying corpses in the
Pisa Pisa ( , or ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public ser ...

Pisa
n ''Triumph of Death'', or with an
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
word ''maqābir'' (مقابر), cemeteries (plural of ''
maqbara The Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, J ...

maqbara
''.


See also

*
Body horrorBody horror or biological horror is a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. These violations may manifest through aberrant sex, mutations, mutilation, zombification, gra ...
*
Black comedy Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works inten ...
*
Horror fiction Horror is the one of the largest genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
*
Dark fantasy Dark fantasy is a subgenre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of ...
* ''
Danse Macabre The ''Danse Macabre'' (; ) (from the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, ...
'' *
Danse macabre (Saint-Saëns) ''Danse macabre'', Op. 40, is a tone poem A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or ...
* Grimdark * ''
Memento mori ''Memento mori'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...

Memento mori
'' *
Paranoid fiction Paranoid fiction is a term sometimes used to describe works of literature that explore the Subjectivity, subjective nature of reality and how it can be manipulated by forces in power. These forces can be external, such as a totalitarianism, totalit ...
*
Weird fiction Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.John Clute,Weird Fiction", in ''The Encyclopedia of Fantasy'', 1997. Retrieved 29 September 2018. Weird fiction either eschews or radically re ...


References


External links


Macabre Art Gallery
{{Horror fiction Horror genres Death customs Memento mori