A Response to Macbeth and the Rituals of Tragedy

Topics: Shakespearean tragedy, Macbeth, William Shakespeare Pages: 4 (1629 words) Published: May 25, 2014
Nabeel Allie – ALLNAB003
Wrestling Asses and Backstabbers – Siphokazi Jonas
Wednesday & Thursday, Arts Block 26 – 10:00 to 10:45

In Shakespeare’s tragedies – which will be focalized on Macbeth and to a lesser degree, Romeo and Juliet, in this response paper – the ritual of death is most prevalent. In this response paper, the ritual representation of death will encompass the journey towards death by a specific character, rather than only the moment of dying i.e. the build up towards the moment of death. In both Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, the demise of the namesake protagonists is preluded in the early parts of the play. In Romeo and Juliet, the audience is made aware that the two will die by the chorus in the prologue – the relationship is called a “death-marked love” – 1 and this is done similarly in Macbeth with an apparition saying he would be conquered under certain circumstances – the apparition states, “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him”. 2 The tragic genre complicates the ritual of death by laying out a perceived path of success for the protagonists – e.g. Romeo and Juliet to get married, and Macbeth to remain king – which finally leads to their death and therefore provides a prelude to death. The tragedy genre also complicates the space of death due to the nature of the plays – the nature of the plays are so to entertain and this is done through tools such as irony and paradoxes that complicate the space of death, amongst other things. The spaces in which the protagonists die have significant relevance to their development as characters throughout the play.

The key characteristic of a Shakespearian tragedy is death. Coupled with the contrasting story line to the comedies – comedies have an ascending story line, usually ending in marriage, whilst tragedies have a descending story line, usually ending in death – it (death) is the key component that sets the two apart. The...

Bibliography: Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Edited by Pearsall. J, Oxford University Press (1999)
Shakespeare, W. As You Like It. No Fear Shakespeare: As You Like It, Edited by Crowther, J. New York: Spark Publishing. (2004)
Shakespeare, W. Romeo and Juliet. No Fear Shakespeare: Macbeth, Edited by Crowther, J. New York: Spark Publishing. (2005)
Stern, Tiffany. “Text, Playhouse and London” in Making Shakespeare: From Stage to Page. Routledge, (2004) pg. 11
Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
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