Tragedy in Macbeth
Tragedy has most definitely influenced the viewer’s thoughts on Macbeth within this play. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the audience sees a gradual breakdown in the character of Macbeth himself, due to the tragic events that unfold during the play. This has a direct effect on the audience’s views and thoughts of Macbeth, thus creating pity and fear within the audience. Macbeth, being a man and a human being himself, is inclined to some forms of temptation, to which man himself has quite often succumbed. The guilt that Macbeth experiences after the death of King Duncan also experienced in every human’s life, gives the viewer much pity for Macbeth. The sword appearing in front of Macbeth's eyes II.i.37 gives both fear and pity for Macbeth. The death of Banquo, which was ordered by Macbeth, gives the audience fear for the extreme lengths Macbeth will go to. Then only a scene later the audience witnesses a paranoid Macbeth visualizing the ‘ghost’ of Banquo. The audience felt sorrow and pity for Macbeth, after the announcement that his wife had died. Finally in the death of Macbeth at the end of the play, the audience has a final ounce of pity to give to Macbeth.
Macbeth and Banquo were on return from their great victory, when stopped by three witches I.iii.. The witches had a prophecy that involved Macbeth and the ruling throne of Scotland. The witches meet Macbeth and are ready to discuss his future, which is only known by them. "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee Thane of Glamis! … All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! … All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter! …"Three witches, I.iii.49-50 Macbeth being in a state of shock and confusion is in some way attracted to this prophecy; he is lured by the thought that he will be king, and king he shall be very soon. "Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: By Sinel’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis; But how of Cawdor? The thane of Cawdor lives, A prosperous gentleman; and to be king Stands not within the prospect of belief…" Macbeth I.iii.70-74 The audience sees how Macbeth is introduced into taking over the throne of his great friend Duncan. This unleashes pity and fear within the audience, because they felt for a man succumbing to grievous temptation. The events in which took place after this increase our pity of Macbeth. The audience sees a grown, noble and mighty officer disgraced into a pool of immense guilt.
Shortly after the murdering incident Macbeth was driven insane by the immense guilt produced by his withered conscience. The dagger that was used in the killing of King Duncan haunted him before the murder took place. This tragedy in the play gives us both fear of where the sword came from and pity for Macbeth's character that had degraded to such a point that he has become paranoid.
Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight, or art thou but A dagger of mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressèd brain? … Macbeth, II.i.33-39.
The events before the murder of Duncan, which include Macbeth’s fear of killing Duncan, the timing at-which it will take place; all of which these things made the audience fearful. Macbeth seemed nervous in a way, for he loved his king and would do anything in his strength to protect him and his family. "The service and the loyalty…your throne and state children and servants; which do but what they should, by doing every thing Safe toward your love and honor…"Macbeth, I.iv.22-27. Macbeth knew that Duncan was a kind man, and Duncan thought that others were as noble and trustworthy as him. After the death of Duncan there was a sense of fear, of whether or not Macbeth would be able to get away with his crime, and if Lady Macbeth’s plan of setting up the soldiers with the murder would work or fail. Macbeth had succumbed to grievous temptation and for that the audience gave pity and disgust to Macbeth, a man so desperate.
After Macbeth had killed Duncan to acquire his throne, he was inclined to take away another man’s life: Banquo. Banquo was seen as a threat to Macbeth's reign; for Banquo knew of the witches’ prophecies after the death of Duncan he was suspicious that Macbeth was to blame. Macbeth disposed of Banquo not by doing it himself but by hiring ‘hit men’ to do it for him. The killing of Banquo went ahead as planned, and was performed in such a cowardly manner, that the tragedy of this event made the audience fearful of what had become of Macbeth, and piteous of what a man such as Macbeth had stooped to. His own act of self-glory had reached a peak in evil, he was required to do more evil to help his cause, and because of this, the audience felt great fear for and pity for Macbeth.
Macbeth's conscience had once more played a trick on Macbeth. While Macbeth was hosting a dinner, he saw Banquo’s ghost sitting in his chair. Macbeth became hysterical, cursing his fellow lords and causing a scene. Macbeth was feeling such immense guilt that his conscience had repossessed his soul to make him paranoid with guilt and hallucinations. Because of this, the audience felt much pity for Macbeth.
The death of Lady Macbeth in its own right was a large tragedy for Macbeth. The audience saw how when he received news of her death, he was shattered, realizing how much harm he had done to his world, and what his world had come to. He describes how life has become a succession of meaningless days, due to the bloodshed he has brought upon his world. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death..." Macbeth V.v.19-23
Finally in the last scene of Macbeth the audience saw how Macbeth was slaughtered by his fate at the hands of Macduff. Macbeth's reign of death, evil, terror and carnage came to an end. At the end, Macbeth was not triumphant, instead defeated. The audience felt pity for Macbeth, even though the audience knew he had done so much evil, but we saw how Macbeth's soul was taken over by an evil presence so that he was unable to think or act in a noble way. The audience felt pity because he never got to taste what real ruling was like. He was full of so much guilt that the audience could not help but also feel remorseful and piteous of him.
Macbeth brought so much tragedy, but yet inside his evil heart, we saw room for forgiveness. The viewer saw a noble officer turn into a tyrant, full of guilt for his actions and full of regret. The audience could not help but feel sorry for him. Macbeth is a character who arouses much pity and fear through the tragedies that he is involved in, including the death of King Duncan, Banquo, Lady Macbeth, and finally, the death of Macbeth himself.