Theory Of Tragedy In Macbeth
According to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, the tragic hero must begin the play as a high status individual so that his fall from grace carries impact. Aristotle believed that since the aim of tragedy is to provoke emotion in the audience, that goal is easily met by showing something terrible happen to someone in a hierarchy than by telling a tragic story about a shepherd or a farmer. Also, when a hero is of high status, his actions have repercussions for the whole community, such as disrupting line of inheritance of the throne. Macbeth begins the play as a wealthy and high status nobleman who has also just learned the king’s favor due to his skills as a warrior. The audience initially admires him for his accomplishments, and can relate to his desire to be king, since ambition is a common human drive . Macbeth is a tragic hero due to an error of judgment causing him to murder Duncan, leading to chaos, destruction, and eventually his own death.
While a tragic hero begins as someone the audience can look up to, he is soon tempted to make a terrible mistake. Macbeth’s mistake is letting his ambition lead him into murdering Duncan. Although he seems to have been a loyal noblemen, once the opportunity comes of him becoming king, he can’t resist. Macbeth has just achieved a rise in status through being made Thane of Cawdor rather than being satisfied with the reward, he remains unsatisfied. Macbeth hesitates a number of times before deciding to kill Duncan. He initially tries to put thoughts about murdering Duncan out of his mind and resists his wife’s suggestions about becoming king. Up to this point, he remains a sympathetic character. In watching Macbeth actually act on his fantasies, the audience vicariously lives out behavior they wouldn’t be capable of themselves.
Where Macbeth differs from the audience is in his belief that he is invincible and capable of getting away with things most people wouldn't attempt. In most people, ambition is tempered by an understanding that actions have consequences. Macbeth, on the other hand, believed his ambition had no consequences. The witches’ prophecies showed that Macbeth is simply living out an already determined fate. Had Macbeth not met the witches he might never have dreamt of becoming king, his fate was unavoidable.
The use of a character who makes an initial mistake and then winds up being corrupted as a result has seemed to be popular in literature and film. John Milton’s 17th century epic poem Paradise Lost tells the Biblical story of creation. After Satan begins to get prideful and acts off ambition and rebels against God, he becomes more and more committed to evil deeds. In later times, writers became interested in figures who cover up a first transgression with further evil acts.. More recently, in the TV series Breaking Bad, the main character becomes a drug dealer to help his family, but gradually becomes corrupted by the actions he takes and by his own greed. In all of these stories, characters fall into thinking of themselves as exceptional individuals for whom rules do not apply. Likewise, Macbeth begins by thinking that his ambitions justifies him being willing to achieve them and ends the play as a figure whose legacy is destruction.