Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare that tells the story of Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman who is driven to commit murder in order to gain the throne. Macbeth is often referred to as a tragedy because of the many devastating events that take place throughout the play, including death, destruction, and loss. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and continues to be performed around the world.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies in the tragic genre. Though he may be considered a scholar in that he was both an accomplished and prolific playwright, look back a few centuries to find Aristotle, one of history’s most renowned and prolific philosophers. He defends poetry against criticism in his treatise titled Poetics (written BCE), as well as establishes criteria for tragedies in “The Nature of Tragedy,” a portion of the Poetics.
Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare written in the early 1600s, meets the criteria for a tragedy set forth by Aristotle over two thousand years ago. Macbeth is considered a tragedy because it includes the following six components: a tragic hero, hubris or excessive pride, hamartia or tragic flaw, anagnorisis or recognition, peripeteia or reversal of fortune, and catharsis.
Aristotle’s first point is that “the structure of theAction must be not simple but complex and complicated” (Aristotle 20). In Macbeth, this is accomplished through the use of subplots. In addition to Macbeth’s story, there are also plots involving Macduff, Banquo, Lady Macbeth, and the three witches. The subplots serve to further the story by providing motivation for the characters as well as contributing to the atmosphere of paranoia and distrust that Shakespeare creates. Furthermore, the subplots help to create empathy in the audience by humanizing the characters and making them relatable.
Aristotle’s second point is that “the Changes of Fortune should not be from bad to good, but, reversely, from good to bad” (Aristotle 20). In Macbeth, this is certainly the case. Macbeth starts out as a respected thane and ends up as a murderer who is reviled by all. His fall from grace is due in part to his own actions, but it is also influenced by the machinations of Lady Macbeth and the witches.
Aristotle’s third point is that “the Tragic Hero must be one who is not only good but also great” (Aristotle 21). Macbeth qualifies as a tragic hero because he is a good man who undergoes a tragic downfall. He does not deserve the fate that befalls him, and this makes his story all the more compelling.
Aristotle’s fourth point is that “the Tragic Flaw should be a mistake or error in judgement, not a vice” (Aristotle 21). Macbeth’s tragic flaw is his ambition. He desires power and status so much that he is willing to kill for it. This ultimately leads to his downfall.
Aristotle’s fifth point is that “there should be Reversal of the Situation, and Recognition” (Aristotle 22). In Macbeth, there are several reversals of fortune. For example, Macbeth goes from being a respected thane to a murderer. Banquo goes from being Macbeth’s friend to his enemy. Lady Macbeth goes from being a strong-willed woman to a deranged lunatic. These reversals contribute to the tragedy of the story.
Macbeth is a typical tragedy in that its protagonist travels down a darksome road of deceit and bloodshed, which leads to his own downfall and death. Macbeth, like the protagonists in other ancient tragedies, is a prominent political figure.
His bloody ascent to power and subsequent reign are a source of fascination for many. Macbeth is also a victim of his own ambition; he allows himself to be consumed by his desire for greater power, which eventually destroys him. Macbeth’s story is one of intense drama and tragedy, making it one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
Is Macbeth suitable to be classed as a tragedy in accordance with Aristotle’s criteria? A tragedy is “an imitation of an action that is serious, whole, and of a certain scope.” It should also induce emotions of pity or terror in the audience. The concept of “katharsis” or “purification” is crucial to drama. According to Aristotle, by feeling for the actors on stage, spectators experience a sort of spiritual purging, which he refers to as a “cleansing of the soul.
Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, is a perfect example of a tragedy. The play Macbeth is about a great general who gets too ambitious and murders his king to be crowned himself. Once Macbeth has murdered Duncan, he cannot stop at just that one act of violence and goes on to kill more people in order to keep his thrown. Macbeth’s actions lead to many deaths, including his own, as well as the downfall of his kingdom. Consequently, the play Macbeth meets all the prerequisites for being a tragedy according to Aristotle’s standards.
Aristotle’s first point is that a tragedy must be an “imitation of an action that is serious.” Macbeth most definitely fits that qualification. The play is about a man who commits terrible crimes, murders people, and causes destruction. Macbeth is not a comedic character like Falstaff from Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays. He is a tragic figure who goes down a dark path and suffers the consequences.
Aristotle’s second point is that a tragedy must be “complete.” Macbeth meets that qualification as well. The play has a clear beginning, middle, and end. It does not meander around or lack a sense of purpose. Macbeth’s story is tightly plotted and suspenseful.
Aristotle’s third point is that a tragedy must be of “a certain magnitude.” Once again, Macbeth fits the bill. Macbeth is a powerful general, and his crimes have far-reaching consequences. He is not a small-time criminal; his actions have a big impact.
Aristotle’s fourth point is that a tragedy should “excite pity or fear” in the spectator. Macbeth does both. Macbeth’s story is pitiful because he was a great man who threw away his life for ambition. It is also fearful because Macbeth’s crimes show what can happen when someone gets too ambitious and power-hungry.