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Hamlet and Macbeth as Tragedies

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Essay title: Hamlet and Macbeth as Tragedies

In every one of William Shakespeare plays is a tragic hero, and every tragic hero has a tragic flaw. Two examples of this would occur in Hamlet and Macbeth. Both title characters possess the equalities of a tragic hero.

What is tragedy? Aristotle defines tragedy: “A tragedy must not be the spectacles of a perfect good man brought to adversity. For this merely stock us” (1). Not in every play where a hero dies is considered a tragedy. Also, “Nor, of course, must it be that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for that is not tragedy at all, but the perversion of tragedy, and revolts moral sense”. Further “Nor, again, should it exhibit the downfall of an utter villain pity is aroused by undeserved misfortunes, terror by misfortunes befalling a man like ourselves”. “There remains, then, as the only proper subject for tragedy, the spectacle of a man not absolutely or eminently good or wise, who is brought to disaster not by sheer depravity but by some error or frailty”. “Lastly, this man must be highly renowned and prosperous-and Oedipus, a Thyestes, or some other illustrious person” (Quiller-Couch 1). “A tragedy, he tells us, is a play in which the chief characters experience a change from good fortune to bad, and in a comedy, alternately, the change is from bad to good” (Fallon, Themes 210). The tragedy in Macbeth is between friends, but the tragedy in Hamlet occurs within the family.

Every tragic play must have a tragic hero. A tragic hero does not need to be good; for example, Macbeth was a wicked person, even though he was a tragic hero. This tragic hero, Aristotle tell us, should not be absolutely evil, since the death of such a figure, being only just, would fall to move the audience; not should the figure be absolutely good, for his death would violate our concept of right and wrong, evoking not a tragic sense but a feeling of courage” (Fallon, Shakespeare 7). According to Aristotle, “The tragic hero… must be an important person in the community, a king, a queen, a prince, of a famous warrior, a man or woman of substance and responsibility because that figures experiences a fall, and any fall is more moving if it comes from a great height” (6). Also a tragic hero does not have to die, but in all Shakespeare’s plays the hero dies, while in other tragic plays they may alive.

Aristotle proposed that the most successful tragic heroes are bough low by some personal failing, pride, ambition, or desire for gain, qualities with which any member of the audience is all too familiar but which, when carried to excess, can becomes a ruling passion, crowding out the virtues that temper them in a balanced human spirit. (Fallon, Themes 211)

All of Shakespeare tragic heroes have a certain flaw. For

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