What are the elements of tragedy in Macbeth?

Elements of tragedy in Macbeth include betrayals, the needless deaths of many of the characters, and the degeneration of Macbeth’s spiritual and moral character.

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There are many elements of tragedy in Macbeth, including the deaths of a number of characters, multiple betrayals, and of course, the tragic downward spiral of Macbeth himself.

Macbeth's path to the throne of Scotland is a bloody one, and he becomes increasingly willing to kill to maintain power...

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There are many elements of tragedy in Macbeth, including the deaths of a number of characters, multiple betrayals, and of course, the tragic downward spiral of Macbeth himself.

Macbeth's path to the throne of Scotland is a bloody one, and he becomes increasingly willing to kill to maintain power as the play goes on. Among the most notable and tragic deaths for which Macbeth is responsible are King Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macduff, and Macduff's young son. Banquo and Duncan's deaths are grave betrayals, as Banquo was Macbeth's former friend and Duncan was once Macbeth's king. King Duncan welcomed Macbeth into his inner circle and rewarded his loyalty with a new title at the beginning of the play. Macbeth knows Duncan to be a good man and a just ruler, yet he kills him anyway to satisfy his own ambition. The murder of Macduff's family (and the attempted murder of Banquo's young son, Fleance) serve to further highlight the depth of Macbeth's evil, demonstrating that there is no line he will not cross to retain the throne.

Murdering Duncan seems to put Macbeth on a course from which he cannot turn back, and his moral, spiritual, and mental deterioration in the wake of Duncan's death is one of the great tragedies of the play. Macbeth is loyal to Duncan initially and though he secretly dreams of the throne, he is hesitant to act upon these desires. It is Lady Macbeth, whose counsel he trusts deeply, who truly convinces Macbeth to follow through with the plot to murder Duncan. Though his wife is confident in their plan, Macbeth is wracked with guilt and anxiety and even hallucinates prior to and immediately after he kills Duncan. Macbeth's heart soon hardens, however, and by the end of the play, he doesn't even consult with his beloved wife as he callously orders the murders of women, children, and former friends.

By the end of the play, Macbeth seems to be devoid of a conscience entirely, and when he hears of his wife's death, he appears numb to it, remarking, "She should have died hereafter." His famous "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy reveals the depth of his despair and spiritual decay, as he suggests that life itself is meaningless. In the end, the Macbeth's death is not sympathetic, but entirely just. When Macduff appears onstage carrying Macbeth's severed head, justice has been served and Macbeth's tragic fall is complete.

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