Authors have been writing tragedies for the past 2000 years. A tragedy is a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a noble person whose character is flawed by a moral weakness -as pride, envy, etc- which causes him to break a divine law or a moral precept and which leads him to his downfall or destruction. William Shakespeare’s playMacbeth, by presenting a dark theme, a moral weakness in the hero’s mind and his downfall, can therefore be examined as a tragedy of the XVIIth century.
A component of a tragic play is the somber mood in which it takes place. William Shakespeare introduces this dark theme from the beginning of the play, with the gloomy atmosphere created with the witches, the thunder and the lightning. Thepresence of the supernatural, for example the witches’ predictions, creates awe in the audience, giving them the desire to know more about the story. From the very beginning, the author is also giving clues to the audience about Macbeth’s failing, shown by the witches’ prediction to Banquo, telling him his future will be “Lesser than Macbeth and greater./ Not so happy, yet much happier” (ShakespeareI, iii, 66-67). Another clue of the main character’s decline is present in Banquo’s warning to Macbeth:
“That, trusted home,
Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
Besides the thane of Cawdor. But ‘tis strange.
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepestconsequence” (I. iii. 122-128).
Banquo’s warning is a great example of foreshadowing, since later on, Macbeth, influenced by his wife, starts to commit murders in order to make the prediction become true and to achieve the crown of Scotland. As a consequence of these acts, such as the King’s murder, the chaos begins, having an impact on the entire country “Lamentings heard i’th’air, strange screamsof death/... Some say the Earth/ Was feverous and did shake” (II. iii. 51, 55-56), “( Duncan’s horses/( Turned wild in nature/( ‘Tis said they eat each other” (II. iv. 14, 16, 18). Moreover, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth start to be haunted by their actions and succumb to insanity, both having hallucinations about the murders they are responsible for. In spite of the fact that Lady Macbeth was theone influencing Macbeth in killing the king, she cannot handle her guilt, and commits suicide by the end of the play.
Another constituent of a tragedy is the moral weakness of the main character. Macbeth, despite being a loyal and honourable soldier, is totally submissive to his wife’s wishes. Lady Macbeth is the one motivating him and even making him kill Duncan, using his absent virility as astimulus:
“( What beast was ‘t, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.” (I. vii. 47-51).
By listening to Lady Macbeth and assassinating King Duncan, Macbeth broke the Great Chain of Being, something no loyal soldier or subject would do.This is the first obvious step of Macbeth’s mental transformation. Throughout the play, Macbeth uses violence and his ability as
a fighter in battle to further his ambition instead of serving his country, for example by being responsible for Banquo’s murder because of the witches’ prediction that Banquo’s descendants will be kings. Therefore, Macbeth attempts to also kill his friend’s son,Fleance, to make sure he will keep the throne in his possession. There is an evident clue of Macbeth’s moral weakness and of his fear of his future actions when, on his way to kill the current king Duncan, he starts having hallucinations:
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible...
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