The Tragedy and Despair of Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

The Tragedy and Despair of Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

Length: 3251 words (9.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Tragedy and Despair of Macbeth       


Macbeth is one of the best known of Shakespeare's plays. It is commonly classed, along with Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear, among Shakespeare's four great tragedies. After reading Macbeth, several significant aspects of the play come to mind: the central characters (Lady Macbeth and her husband) and their development, the treatment of gender issues, the nature and conflict of good and evil, the final triumph of the forces of goodness and life, and the troubling implications of that triumph.

One way to approach the play's leading characters is to see how they fit Aristotle's ideas about tragedy. The problem with this approach is that they don't fit Aristotle's ideas very well. Aristotle wrote that a tragic character should be more good than evil and that the character's fall should be the result of a mistake or misstep (the probable meaning of Aristotle's term hamartia) rather than moral depravity. Lady Macbeth and her husband, by contrast, are more evil than good, and they deliberately commit or arrange several horribly depraved acts: among others, the murder of King Duncan, the murder of Macbeth's friend Banquo, and the murder of Macduff's wife and children. Their motives are purely selfish: they want power and all the personal benefits it will bring. It doesn't look as if Aristotle's ideas work very well at all in Macbeth.

But despite the fact that the play doesn't fit the ideal Aristotelian mold (and Shakespeare probably had no intention that it should, anyway), looking at the play in this way sheds some light on it. We're required to ask, "Is Macbeth purely evil? Is his wife?" The more closely I've looked at the play, the more I've become convinced that its power comes f...


... middle of paper ...


...tues we commonly associate with women and children -- or with Christ -- have not been given adequate attention.

Macbeth shows us characters who have succumbed to despair: Lady Macbeth, who comes to believe that "What's done cannot be undone" (5.1.68), and Macbeth, who argues that, since "I am in blood/ Stepp'd in so far," repentance is pointless: "should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (3.4.135-37). The play shows these characters defeated, but not redeemed.

Works Cited

Cooke, Patricia. "Macbeth: Origin of Despair." Online posting. 20 Nov. 1996. SHAKSPER: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference. 5 March 2001
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/1996/0937.html>.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Macbeth By William Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay

- Three witches start the villainy in Macbeth’s heart by addressing him as “thane of Cawdor” and “king hereafter.” (Act I, Scene 3, 50-51) Those few words plant the seeds of debauchery that will take the lives of Duncan the King, Banquo his fellow warrior, and the ultimate demise of his wife Lady Macbeth. The peripety occurs with each of these malicious acts during this tragedy. Macbeth knew that Duncan was a good king and fought the urge to kill him, but surrendered to his wife’s verbal lashing and committed the crime....   [tags: Macbeth, Banquo, Macbeth of Scotland]

Powerful Essays
848 words (2.4 pages)

The Tragedy Of Macbeth By William Shakespeare Essay

- Tragic heroes: amazing people destined for a sizable downfall. Fighting in the war was a simple task for Macbeth from Macbeth. He was living a life full of happiness and pride. Until, he met three witches that made all of the difference in his life. After fighting in a malignant war, Macbeth and his best friend Banquo meet three witches that tell them their future. Macbeth was told he would be another thane, and also would be taking Duncan’s place as king of Scotland. Banquo learned that his kids will also be kings afterward....   [tags: Macbeth, Tragic hero, Poetics, Three Witches]

Powerful Essays
967 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on Macbeth, By William Shakespeare

- It Takes More than One to Achieve One’s Destiny William Shakespeare on his bloody tragedy, Macbeth, introduces the spectator into a mind-blowing historical event transformed into a play. Though with some questionable accuracy about the real event, Macbeth tells the story of a brave general named Macbeth who, from the encounter with three sister witches, receives the prophecy about him becoming king of Scotland in a near future. Because it is unknown how Macbeth will become king, Shakespeare uses this fact to unravel an array of mysteries around the different characters throughout the play who are moved towards the accomplishment of such prophecy....   [tags: Macbeth, Duncan I of Scotland, Macbeth, Macbeth]

Powerful Essays
1301 words (3.7 pages)

The Power of the Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth Essay

- The Power of the Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth   The tragedy of Macbeth comes about because of a single event in his life. If that one moment, the meeting with the witches on the heath, had not happened then Macbeth would no doubt have gone on to be a loyal and respected subject of King Duncan and, later, King Malcolm. However, the meeting did happen and the powerful force of ambition was unleashed within Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It is the combination of these two factors, the meeting with the witches and Macbeth's own inner demons, that lead to tragedy, and make the play 'terrifying' in the Aristotelian sense....   [tags: Macbeth essays Shakespeare Witchcraft]

Powerful Essays
1386 words (4 pages)

Essay on Ambition: The Destruction of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

- One of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies is that of Macbeth. It is also known as “the Scottish play,” primarily because of its Scottish setting and because it is based loosely after the life of a real King Macbeth of Scotland. (Mendham) This play is considered a tragedy because the protagonist of the play, Macbeth, will suffer a terrible downfall as the result of his actions. From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare effectively establishes the atmosphere of the play as one of doom and despair, where even nature is at war with itself....   [tags: Macbeth Essays]

Powerful Essays
1188 words (3.4 pages)

The Tragedy of Macbeth Essays

- At the end of an awful, long day one might wonder what went wrong – was the universe against them. Was it a mistake on their part. What have they lost as a result. Such a scenario can be exemplified in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare. First, outside forces influence Macbeth into making decisions he would not ordinarily make. Second, Macbeth’s transition from a revered leader to a detested king can be symbolized by the absence of nobility loyalty, and peace. Third, Macbeth’s overwhelming pride and thirst for power leads him to commit a series of crimes....   [tags: Shakespeare, Play Analysis]

Powerful Essays
921 words (2.6 pages)

The Tragedy of Macbeth Essay

- Who is ultimately responsible for the tragedy of Macbeth. It could be said that Macbeth´s strive for power affects every aspect of his life, and this motivation eventually leads to his demise. Many different factors play a pivotal role in deciding his ill-fated future. With his wife´s cajoling, and the three witches´ foretelling of his future, Macbeth, will stop at nothing to gain position as King of Scotland. It could be said that Lady Macbeth is responsible. She bullies him, emotionally blackmails him and knows he is morally sensitive so he must be pushed....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
834 words (2.4 pages)

Essay on Macbeth - Tragedy

- 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....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1236 words (3.5 pages)

Essay on Change of Character in Macbeth

- Change of Character in Macbeth        "Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be / What thou art promised" (1.5.15-16). In Shakespeare's classic tragedy Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is a strong, scheming instigator, the person who initially plans the murder of King Duncan. Her husband, on the other hand, vacillates, tormented by his conscience, terrified of the consequences. By the end of the play, however, the roles reverse. Macbeth becomes the devious character, while his wife wallows in grief and despair....   [tags: Macbeth essays]

Powerful Essays
905 words (2.6 pages)

Total Effect of "The Tragedy of Macbeth" Essay

- The Shadow “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, written by William Shakespeare, gives the reader an impact of the horror at the darkness in humans. In the story, the most dominant literary element is the theme. The theme brings out the impact of horror, while the other literary elements support it. One of the most evident quotes that made me think of the horror of darkness in humans was said by Macbeth, “Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires…” This quote showed that Macbeth was heavily influenced by his ambitions....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
922 words (2.6 pages)