Macbeth - Tragedy

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William Shakespeare is the noted author of a vast array of plays, ranging from comedies to histories to tragedies. Perhaps one of his most famous in the tragedy genre is Macbeth. Though Shakespeare can be considered as a scholar in the sense that he was both a renowned and prolific playwright, look back a few hundred years to find Aristotle, one of the most famous scholars and philosophers of all time. In his treatise titled Poetics, he defends poetry against criticism as well as sets standards for tragedies in "The Nature of Tragedy," a section of the Poetics. Is Macbeth fit to be included in the tragedy genre according to the standards set by Aristotle?

According to Aristotle, a tragedy is "an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude." It also should "excite pity or fear" in the spectator. An important concept of tragedy is that of "katharsis" or "purgation". By that, Aristotle means that the spectators feel for the characters onstage, and in doing so, undergoes a so-called "cleansing of the soul." Though the concept of katharsis is increasingly important in the play, there are six specific elements that make up a tragedy; without them, there would be no play and no katharsis. Of the six, which include plot, character, thought, diction, song, and spectacle, the first two are the most important.

The most important aspect of tragedy is the plot, which is considered to be "the soul of a tragedy." The plot of Macbeth is complex, meaning that it contains Recognition and Reversal of the Situation. Macbeth believes that every man is of woman born, and thus he cannot be killed by anyone. "Thou losest labor./ As easy mayest thou the intrenchant air/ With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed./ Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests./ I bear a charmed life, which must not yield/ To one of woman born."

This is a scene that contains Recognition; it is when Macbeth realizes that another of the witches' prophecies are coming...
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