Essay Tragedies: William Shakespeare and Good Tragedy

Submitted By broscoff22
Words: 1230
Pages: 5

Tragedies have been around for as long as time. They occur in the Bible, the history of the world, past-time, and present-time. They began long ago and will keep going for even longer. Tragedy, however, is often mainly associated with a type of play. I have only read Shakespeare tragedies so I did some research on what Aristotle thinks of tragedies.
According to Aristotle, tragedy is a drama that “‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’” (McManus 3). It is better than history because tragedy is about what possibly could happen while history is strictly reporting the truth. Tragedy often-times makes the audience be able to see themselves in the situation of the play. This can instill fear into those watching and make it more of a ride for them. Aristotle came up with six principles that determine a good tragedy; plot, character, thought, diction, song or melody, and spectacle (3).
Plot is the most important part. It is not about what actually happens in the play, but rather the way the story is presented. It is more about the “structure” of it (McManus 4). The cause-and-effect chain has to be evident for it to be a good tragedy. Character is the second most important part of a good tragedy. Personal greed is evident in the play and is connected to the cause-and-effect chain. Also, the main character tends to have a “tragic flaw” that ends up bringing about his downfall, which brings the emotion of pity to the audience (9). Thought is another important aspect of tragedy. This is seen in speeches and other various things, and is assumed to also include themes (10). Diction is the expression of the words, including metaphors (11). The fifth important aspect is song, or melody. It is the “musical element of the play” and should be like an actor in itself (12). Spectacle is the last important aspect because it is only in the play itself through the stage. Great effects are what spectacle relies on (13). The end of the tragedy should make fear and pity emotions of the audience. The audience should also feel “pleasure” about the end, how the whole play was entangled together (14). These are all of the important elements of tragedy that make it a good tragedy, according to Aristotle.
Many of these aspects are included in Shakespearean tragedies. The aspect of character is very important in these tragedies. Personal greed is evident in the play “Hamlet,” seen through King Claudius. In Act Three Scene Three of the play, he says, “This cannot be, since I am still possessed/Of those effects for which I did the murder,/My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen./May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?” (56-59) Claudius killed his brother in order to be king, and even took his wife. He wants to be forgiven but knows that he cannot while he still has the things that he did for his own personal greed. This is connected to the cause-and-effect chain of the play because it causes Hamlet to want revenge upon him and is the main story of the play.
Another example of character is seen in “Macbeth.” Macbeth, like Claudius, kills the king for his own personal greed, and becomes king himself. He then is very anxious that other’s will try and take the throne from him since he got it on such bloody terms. He is told by witches that he should be weary of Macduff, which brings about his tragic flaw. He has Macduff’s family killed in Act Four Scene Two, which causes Macduff to kill him in Act Five Scene Eight. The tragic flaw is also seen in “Titus Andronicus” in Act One Scene One in which Titus kills the son of Tamora, despite her begging. He says, “To this your son is marked, and die he must,/T’ appease their groaning shadows that are gone” (128-9). He kills Tamora’s eldest son and Tamora later becomes empress. She vows to get revenge on Titus for it. She says in Act Two Scene Three, “Remember, boys, I poured forth tears in vain/To save your brother from the sacrifice,/But fierce Andronicus would not relent./Therefore away with her, and use her as…