Macbeth Research Paper - Part 2 - Macbeth Essay Example

The play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, is known as one of the greatest tragedies of all time - Macbeth Research Paper introduction. Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, had a method to measure how great a tragedy really is, it is known as Aristotle’s formula for tragedies. Aristotle explains, “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody” (translation by S. H. Butcher http://classics. mit. edu/Aristotle/poetics. 1. 1. html#200). This method is a guideline that shows what the plot, character, diction/language/dialogue, thought/theme, song/melody, and spectacle should be like in order to be a successful tragedy. Based on Aristotle’s formula for a tragedy, it is obvious that Aristotle would have agreed that the play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, is in fact, a tragedy.

The first of the six elements that are included in Aristotle’s formula is the plot. According to Aristotle, the plot of a successful tragedy must have a beginning, middle, and an end, a climax, and it must have unity of action. “Aristotle defines plot as “the arrangement of the incidents”: i. e. , not the story itself but the way the incidents are presented to the audience, the structure of the play” (Barbara F. McManus http://www2. cnr. edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics. html). The beginning must manifest the beginning of a growing problem or the cause of the whole story.


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The middle, also the climax, must be led up to by events that happened from the beginning and eventually lead up to the end. The end, like the middle, must also be caused by previous events, but cannot lead to other events. The end must include the solution to the problem introduced in the beginning. After reading Macbeth, it can be concluded that the beginning, middle, and end corresponds with Aristotle’s standards for a successful tragedy. The beginning of Macbeth introduced the three witches, which, in this case, was the beginning of the growing problem.

The growing problem begins with the enchanted spell, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair, Hover through the fog and filthy air” (1. 1. Lines 12-13). This spell changes up reality, it switches good and evil, making what is supposed to be good and kind into evil and vice versa. The three witches created the source of all the problems, if it weren’t for them, Macbeth would have never killed Duncan or anyone else, and he would have never actively satisfied his desire to be king. The witches implanted the idea of becoming a king in his head and that was the moment that Macbeth’s mind had been opened up to the darker side.

From then on, Macbeth was no longer Macbeth, his mind started to think evil thoughts such as murder, he went from fair to foul, and all because these three witches told him he’d one day become king. His greed and twisted ambition took over and he became corrupt with power. The middle, and climax, of Macbeth would be when Macbeth had become king. Banquo stated, “Thou has it now — King, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the Weird Women promised, and I fear thou played most foully for ‘t” (3. 1. Lines 1-3). Banquo knows of the evil deeds that Macbeth has committed in order to become king.

Killing Duncan and the guards, lying to everyone about the murder, those are the events that led up to and, allowed this moment, where Macbeth became king, to happen. This is one of the most significant events, the climax, in Macbeth; it’s the moment that will root out and cause everything that follows. This follows Aristotle’s guidelines because there are events that cause the middle to occur and the middle leads up to other events that progresses the story. The end of Macbeth is signified by the death of Macbeth. His death gave his people relief and peace.

The play was centered upon Macbeth and how he gained power and also how his own ambition, greed, and pride came back and forced him upon his own death. His ambition and greed is what built his power and helped him achieve his kingship. Although these traits were the ones that helped him achieve greatness, they also played a major role in his downfall. His ambition and greed caused him to go overboard on certain situations, especially when he decided to go against Lady Macbeth when she said that he shouldn’t kill Banquo. Another situation where he went completely overboard was when he ordered Macduff’s family to be killed.

That was one of the main events that made Macduff and the others realize that Macbeth was now corrupt. At the scene where Macduff confronts Macbeth on the battlefield by calling him a coward and that if he does not fight Macduff, he’ll display Macbeth to ridicule him. Macbeth then replies with, “I will not… kiss the ground before young Malcom’s feet and to be baited with the rabble’s curse… Yet I will try the last (5. 8. Lines 32 – 39). This is where Macbeth’s pride is manifesting and also aiding in his downfall. He already knows Macduff is not a man born of woman, but still fights because he does not want to be captured and viewed as a fool.

The unity of action is clear in Macbeth. Macbeth’s death is linked with every event since the beginning of the play. From the time the witches first appeared, casted their spell, and told Macbeth his prophecy, to Duncan’s death, Macbeth becoming king, Banquo’s death, and Lady Macbeth’s death. Everything was tied together perfectly. The witches caused Macbeth to become king and Duncan’s death by pushing Macbeth by telling him he would one day become a king. Once he was king, Macbeth feared the second part of the prophecy which said that Banquo’s children would be kings.

This is where Macbeth goes on a killing spree; he became so corrupt with power that he didn’t want anyone else to have the throne, so he began annihilating anyone that was a possible heir. Because of this corruption, he killed Banquo and soon after Lady Macbeth had committed suicide after realizing how evil the deeds she had done were, she aided in the creation of a monster that is Macbeth. Character, the second of the six elements in Aristotle’s formula for a tragedy, is also the second most important element after plot. “The protagonist should be renowned and prosperous, so his change of fortune can be from good to bad.

This change “should come about as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty in a character” (Barbara F. McManus http://www2. cnr. edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics. html). This element is satisfied by three main parts, “good or fine,” “Fitness of character,” and “true to life. ” Good or fine is related to the moral quality of the character. Fitness of character refers to how true the character is to their type. Lastly, true to life asks for a sense of realism in the character. Macbeth wasn’t always the monster that people believe him to be; he was a benevolent and loyal person.

A great example would be Macbeth’s love and loyalty towards his wife, Lady Macbeth. One of the more notable scenes where Macbeth’s loyalty and love are clearly shown is when Lady Macbeth receives and reads the letter which includes, “… my dearest partner of greatness, that thou might’st not lose the dues of rejoicing by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee…”( 1. 5. Lines 1-14). It’s obvious he loves her a lot because he calls her his dearest partner of greatness. In this letter, Macbeth had told Lady Macbeth everything that has happened to him upon writing that letter.

This shows that he trusts her a lot because he’s telling her all this important information about how the witches told him his prophecy and how it’s slowly coming true. As hard as it might be to believe, he didn’t always think about himself, as shown in the letter, he mentions that there is greatness promised to her. He indirectly tells her that she will be queen. Although Macbeth shows a darker and more evil side throughout most of the story, it’s obvious that he was not always like that. He was a good person who had good morals, but was later affected by certain events, his ambition and his greed.

Macbeth was very true to his type. He was a warrior and a king and he had all the required characteristics a warrior and a king would have. The captain had stated, “For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name), Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel… Like valor’s minion, carved out his passage till he faced the slave…”(1. 2. Lines 17-25). The captain explains that Macbeth had sliced his way to the main commander of the opposing side in that battle, and commends him for it. As a king, Macbeth had done exactly what a king should do, but in a much more harsh way. He controlled his people by taking out any resisting force.

But above that, he moved further away from Lady Macbeth and became strong and independent, now able to make decisions for himself, all on his own. Macbeth is very realistic. Being a skillful warrior, killing a previous king to take his spot on the throne, betraying your own friends because of greed and ambition, all this is very possible especially at the time period this play takes place in. Thought is the third element, “this category would also include what we call the themes of a play” (Barbara F. McManus http://www2. cnr. edu/home/bmcmanus/poetics. html). A possible theme for Macbeth is, “Having too much power can lead to one’s downfall. Macbeth’s downfall was mainly caused by his corruption of power. He misused the power he was granted, instead of helping his people and taking care of his land, Macbeth focused more on how he’d be able to stay king. He carelessly killed many innocent people due to his paranoid vision of them one day becoming king instead of his own kin. His lack of caution endangered his very existence, for when he ordered Macduff’s family dead, Macduff had gained newfound motivation to kill Macbeth. Having power and control is a good thing, but having too much can corrupt almost anyone, inevitably leading to their downfall.

Fourth in importance is diction. Aristotle describes that enunciation and word choice plays a key role in a successful tragedy. This element helps the play become livelier by creating imagery using metaphors, symbolism, and soliloquies. A notable metaphor would be Lady Macbeth’s advice to Macbeth, “Look like th’ innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t” (1. 6. Lines 76 – 78). She’s telling Macbeth to hide his emotions, to mask his dark deeds with an innocent face. A significant symbol in Macbeth would be the motif of blood. Shakespeare’s choice of using this word was clever, he uses it to show family relations and also to show murder.

Song, or rhythm or melody, is the fifth element. Aristotle believed that the Chorus should be seen as an actor and everything they do should add on to the plot. Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter to show a sense of rhythm. Iambic pentameter is the pattern of syllables in a line of poetry and where the syllables are paired two and three at a time, depending on the stresses in the sentence. In Macbeth, Shakespeare best manifests this through the three witches. “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won. That will be ere the set of sun. ” (1. 1. Lines 1- 5).

Here, lines 1 and 2 are paired and lines 2 – 5 are paired and the last word of each paired lines rhyme together. Spectacle, the last component of Aristotle’s formula, is something that can be seen or viewed. Spectacles are used mostly in scenes of movies, but in a written play such as Macbeth, we rely on imagery to create a spectacle. “Safe in a ditch he bides, with twenty trenched gashes on his head, the least a death to nature. ” (Murderer 3. 4. Lines28-30). This provides a disturbing, bloody, and beaten up image of Banquo. It’s concluded that he was unnecessarily stabbed in the head 20 times and was then thrown in a ditch carelessly.

Incidents such as that reveal that the murderers had a personal problem towards the victim. These six elements of Aristotle’s formula are what Aristotle used to determine if a tragedy was worth being called a tragedy. Although some aspects are more significant than others, excluding even the least important one would result in, what Aristotle would believe to be, a “bad” tragedy. And so, according to the information given, it can be concluded that the play Macbeth satisfies all of the six aspects of Aristotle’s infamous formula for a tragedy.

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