By a strange act of force, the classical age was to reduce to silence the madness whose voice the Renaissance had just liberated, but whose violence it had already tamed.

In Foucault's conception, the classical period represented a major shift in attitudes to madness. It silenced madness by confining it within special buildings, using special techniques of control. When he was confined, the madman was unable to speak, or to be spoken about. In the process of confinement, madness was not only silenced, but also reclassified. It became part of a broader category of social deviance that was defined by a negative attitude to work. When madness was linked to criminal behavior and laziness, it lost the special status it had previously enjoyed. This situation contrasted sharply with Renaissance attitudes to madness. Foucault believes that the Renaissance allowed madness to speak freely, both in everyday life and in the works of writers such as Shakespeare and Cervantes. Renaissance madness was not confined or restricted, but the fear it had previously evoked was neutralized. The measures that ended this situation were "strange," Foucault believes, because they were so varied and so successful.

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