Why is Macbeth a tragedy?

Macbeth is a tragedy because it involves the fall of a once-noble character from a high position, exciting pity and terror in the audience. It does not conform entirely to Aristotle's definition of tragedy, since Macbeth is largely the agent of his own destruction. However, Renaissance tragedy developed along slightly different lines from the classical tradition, and there are numerous examples in it of tragic heroes acting villainously.

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Macbeth fulfills most of the criteria for an Aristotelian tragedy, in which a tragic hero experiences a fall from grace. Macbeth initially appears to be of noble character and occupies a high position in his society. However, he climbs to a still higher position by means of murder and...

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Macbeth fulfills most of the criteria for an Aristotelian tragedy, in which a tragic hero experiences a fall from grace. Macbeth initially appears to be of noble character and occupies a high position in his society. However, he climbs to a still higher position by means of murder and treachery, and by the time Macduff actually kills Macbeth, his death does not seem particularly tragic or pitiable, but rather a blessed release or an instance of poetic justice.

Though Aristotle did not think that the tragic hero should be without flaws, his definition of tragedy in the Poetics also suggests that the fall of the hero should not be solely brought about by his depravity. In this sense, Macbeth perhaps does not quite conform entirely to the Aristotelian definition of tragedy, for Macbeth's downfall stems not from some minor misjudgment or error on his part, but from his descent into wickedness and villainy. With regard to the character of the tragic hero, Renaissance tragedy differs significantly from classical tragedy, and there are various examples in which the hero acts villainously, including Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great and Shakespeare's own Titus Andronicus.

One might regard the central tragedy of Macbeth, the event which arouses pity and terror in the audience, as being not Macbeth's end, but his corruption. This gives rise to other tragic scenes in the play, such as the murder of Banquo and, perhaps most shockingly, the killing of Macduff's young son and wife.

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A tragedy is a drama in which the protagonist has a significant downfall, sometimes a result of what is called a "tragic flaw." It is distinguished from the comedy in that it does not have a "happy" or amusing ending. The protagonist's life is usually significantly changed for the worse.

Macbeth is a tragedy because the protagonist becomes enslaved to his own greed for power, then by his own paranoid need to keep the power he has gained. He destroys the lives of those around him, before finally losing his own life. Throughout, he realizes that he has gone down the wrong road, but he is so caught up in fate that he cannot change.

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The tragic hero is made tragic by his fall from heights of power and respect as a result of that flaw, but what makes that flaw and fall tragic is that what makes the man great also brings about his demise. If Macbeth's fatal flaw is his ambition, then we need to remember too that ambition made him a great man, that ambition caused him to be the great warrior he was.  In fact, I would argue that his tragic flaw is his courage, which in battle was ruthless, but in life outside of war has no place, and the same reckless courage of war becomes something else all together off the battlefield. In many ways this play questions issues of gender, including the role of violence and courage in relation to manhood. Understanding courage as part of Macbeth's fatal flaw corresponds to that theme.

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A tragedy is a story in which the main character, usually a hero, is brought to ruin.  The cause of the fall to the hero is often a fatal flaw.  In Macbeth, while the main character, Macbeth, is not a typical hero, he is the main character and he is brought to ruin - his own death - by his fatal flaw which is his blind ambition.  Some argue that Macbeth was a puppet of the witches.  More likely, he is a man with a flaw that the witches were able to see and exploit for their own amusement.  Either way, his flaw may have stayed in check had it not been for the witches and their prophesies so that makes him a somewhat sympathetic character.

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