Hamlet and Macbeth Compared as Aristotelian Tragedies Essay

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Aristotle’s Poetics is often considered the blueprint to a successful tragedy; his outline has been used for hundreds of years. Aristotle defines a tragedy as “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude… in the form of an action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions” (House 82). Aristotle believed that the most important part of a strong tragedy was the plot, and from that, the other elements such as character, diction, etc. would emerge. Aristotle states, “the principle of tragedy – the soul, if you like – is the plot, and second to that the characters” (Whalley 27). Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet essentially mirror this definition. While it is true…show more content…
Hamlet tackles the tragedy within a family, but Macbeth is written as a tragedy that occurs between friends and associates. While extremely ambitious to be king, at the opening of the play Macbeth is a loyal servant to King Duncan of Scotland. However, upon hearing a prophecy from the three witches that predicts his rise to the throne, an insatiable sense of ambition to succeed and wield power overwhelms the good nature of Macbeth. Aristotle describes this part of tragedy as, “the action is human, the energy is human… the action is plotted and prepared by the maker” (Whalley, 23). This is evident when Macbeth utters to himself, “Let not light see my black and deep desires” making known his intentions to murder the king (Macbeth I.iii.52-53). His action is a premeditated response and is aggravated by his all too human emotions, ambitions and greed. After the action element of the story, the character is the next central component in a successful Aristotelian tragedy. According to Aristotle, the character must be true to life and natural; a character is supposed to be a perfectly related to the audience while remaining believable enough to hold their role in a production (House, 91). Hamlet is a wealthy and privileged prince; however, he deals with the problems similar to most common people. He is confused, emotional, obsessive, and paranoid about the circumstances surrounding the death of his father the king. He lacks faith

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