According to Aristotle, the proper pleasure for a tragedy is that it imitates life, and induces the emotions of fear and pity. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is undoubtedly one of the best examples of theatrical tragedy the world has ever known, and even though it was written 1800 years after Aristotle wrote his theories of tragedy, it is an excellent example of his principles.
Go back and review the information about Aristotle’s theory of tragedy in W04 Study: Plot and Character.
Pay especial attention to his six elements of tragedy (plot, character, thought, diction, spectacle, and music), to his structure of complication/denouement, and to the principles of protagonist, antagonist, nemesis, hubris, peripety and catharsis.
Apply these to Macbeth by preparing a short paragraph-length (at least 4-5 sentences for each question cluster, with an introductory sentence, body, and conclusion sentence for each question cluster) response to each of the questions below:
How is the plot arranged? Where are the complication, climax, and denouement? Explain your reasons for choosing these places.
Examine the characters in Macbeth. Name the protagonist, and explain your answer. Name the principal antagonist, and explain your answer.
What is Macbeth’s hamartia, or fatal flaw? Name and explain two examples of his hubris (pride or excessive self-confidence) in the play.
Explain three major thoughts or themes of the play. How does the reading of Macbeth encourage virtue in the audience member?
Name and explain two examples of how Shakespeare uses diction to enhance the drama of the play.
Even though the Music and the Spectacle is most apparent in an actual performance of the play, what indications of these things are in the text?
Describe your emotional reaction to the play? If there were passages that particularly moved you, describe your feelings.
Define peripety in your own words and explain how peripety is shown in Lady Macbeth’s final scene in the play (from Act V Scene 1).
Act V Scene 1
Lady Macbeth Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?–Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.
Doctor Do you mark that?
Lady Macbeth The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?–
What, will these hands ne’er be clean?–No more o’
that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with
Doctor Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.
Gentlewoman She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of
that: heaven knows what she has known.
Lady Macbeth Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Doctor What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.
Gentlewoman I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the
dignity of the whole body.
Doctor Well, well, well,–
Gentlewoman Pray God it be, sir.
Doctor This disease is beyond my practise: yet I have known
those which have walked in their sleep who have died
holily in their beds.
lady Macbeth Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so
pale.–I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he
cannot come out on’s grave.
Doctor Even so?
Lady Macbeth To bed, to bed! there’s knocking at the gate:
come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s
done cannot be undone.–To bed, to bed, to bed!