Macbeth Research Paper

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Arnish Shakil
Macbeth research paper
12/28/10 – 1/2/11

The play Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, is known as one of the greatest tragedies of all time. 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 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 The beginning must manifest the beginning of a growing problem or the cause of the whole story. 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...
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