Do you consider Macbeth to be a successful tragedy?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The defining of Macbeth as a successful tragedy depends upon the definition of tragedy one uses.

First, according to one definition, a tragedy is

a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction.

Under this definition, one could consider Macbeth a successful tragedy based upon the fact that the play is a dramatic composition, completed using verse, which deals with a serious theme (murder, tyranny, and the errs of man/woman). Not only that, Macbeth's tragic flaw (hamartia- Macbeth's being his ambition) leads to his downfall and destruction.

On the other hand, tragedy can be defined as

a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes in its audience an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in the viewing.
Based upon this definition, one could argue if Macbeth is a successful tragedy. If the play fails to evoke the readers emotionally, then one (that individual reader) would not consider the play a successful tragedy. Apart from that, if a reader becomes emotional, then they would consider the play a successful tragedy.

Essentially, the success of the play, regarding its denotation as a successful tragedy, is based upon both the definition applied and the reader's response.