Which other tragedies can Macbeth be cross referenced with /is similar to?I am doing an essay on the element of pity being a necessity for tragic heroes and am required to draw comparisons &...

Which other tragedies can Macbeth be cross referenced with /is similar to?

I am doing an essay on the element of pity being a necessity for tragic heroes and am required to draw comparisons & connections with  and explore interpretations of other literary texts.

Asked on by aramc

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Macbeth is unique among Shakespearean tragedies, as it is the only major one where the hero becomes the villain.  Macbeth begins the play as Duncan's hero, and within one act he murders him.  No other Shakespeare tragedy has such a swift turnaround.  Most of his other tragedies have the hero separate from the villain.  Othello has a villain (Iago), as does Hamlet (Claudius) and King Lear (Regan and Goneril).

Maybe Julius Caesar has a similar traitor in Brutus, who also is the tragic hero, but many (at least 6 others) feel that Brutus was justified in killing (and even helped kill) Caesar.

The most similar tragedy I can come up with is Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, a revenge drama that deals with the nature of evil, a wife's suicide, and dagger imagery.  So says one critic:

Similar to The Spanish Tragedy, the action of Macbeth is set within a pre-ordained universe, in which the actions of the course of events are decided for the characters. We learn, at 1.3.48ff that Macbeth is to be both Thane of Cawdor and King; this immutable fact serves to drive forward Macbeth's subsequent ambitions, and thus the tragedy of the play, initiated by Macbeth's first act of evil: the (off-stage) killing of Duncan, the King of Scotland. While Macbeth does not quite match the excess of on-stage violence that we find in The Spanish Tragedy (and which is attributed a characteristic of melodrama), the events of Macbeth could still be termed 'melodrama'. One often noted feature of the play is its tightness. The action unfolds at near break-neck speed, from which consequence neatly follows on tragic consequence. Coupled with this, there is a sense that time is telescoped in the play; for example, at 1.5.20-23, Lady Macbeth seems to collapse together the tenses of the verb 'to do', and this is not the only instance of rapidity, which in the context of tragic drama, serves as the driving force behind the play entire. However, this is easily parodied as melodrama; if the pace is too fast, the consequences follow on too neatly, then tragedy easily descends into melodramatic burlesque. That this is possible is demonstrable in the form of William Davenant and Francis Talfourd's comic adaptation of Macbeth. In this adaptation, which honours its source by striking right at the heart of the play (in parodying its clock-work like rhythm of cause and effect) the events of the play are turned on their heads; thus, Duncan returns from the dead after Macbeth's death in order to reclaim his crown, which he does successfully. This leads Macbeth also to resurrect himself, whereupon he hands over his regal station, apparently deciding that it's just not worth being a Thane. This comic turn of events plays havoc with the tightly linear structure of the play, and presents it rather as circular; we are back to where we started, with Duncan back as king of Scotland.

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