Macbeth and Othello as a Tragic Story Essay Example
Macbeth and Othello as a Tragic Story Essay Example

Macbeth and Othello as a Tragic Story Essay Example

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According to Aristotle’s theory of Tragedy, Tragedy is seen as an imitation of a serious action which impacts fear and pity on the characters and has a disastrous effect on the protagonist (Aristotle & Butcher, 1961). Having this in mind, this paper will explore William Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a darkest tragedy ever experienced in literature. Reason being, the play impacts fear and pity in the audience mind, and the protagonist suffers massive downfall following his tragic flaws (Shakespeare, Harrison, & Olivier, 1950). Three primary factors make Macbeth a tragic hero; the prophecies passed by the witches, Manipulation and influence of Lady Macbeth on Macbeth’s Judgment and Macbeth’s vision and mission of becoming the King (Shakespeare, 1884).

Aristotle (1961) argues that tragic heroes should portray their good side in an explicit ma


nner as it will help calm down the emotions of the audience during their downfall. At the beginning of play, Macbeth is seen as a high stature leader in the society (Shakespeare, 1990). He has acquired the titled “Thane of Glamis” and promised to earn the “Thane of Cawdor” title by the three witches. By having this titles, Macbeth is reflected as a significant political pillar in the society with the potential of earning high ranks of the Scottish nobility (Shakespeare, Harrison, & Olivier, 1950). His countrymen and leaders speak positively about his work and throne predicting his ability to emerge as a king in future. For example, in Act one, scene two, Duncan is heard addressing Macbeth as a gentleman worth the “Worthy Thane.” This scene portrays Macbeth as an honorable and respectable individual in the community. Though, none of the leaders or countrymen is

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aware of the tragedy and destiny Macbeth is preparing for himself. Shakespeare uses these prophecies and witches to showcase how Macbeth’s character is corrupted by the curiosity and hunger of becoming the King of Scotland. That is, after the predictions are passed to him, he begins to have dark thoughts of how he can become a king within the shortest time possible.

Variously, the character manipulation and influence by Lady Macbeth erodes his character. Lady Macbeth provokes him to take a bloody and violent strategy into the king’s throne. Regardless of the influences from his wife, Macbeth has numerous flaws in his character traits (Shakespeare, 1884). Some of these weaknesses include impressionability and unstable ambition of becoming a king. For example, he followed the plan given by Lady Macbeth to assassinate King Duncan (Shakespeare & In Waith, 1954). Following the death of Kind Duncan, he was announced and crowned as the King of Scotland. Though, his new position brought about fear of anybody who acted as a threat to his dominant position. He began slaughtering and threatening any person who posed as a potential threat to his position. However, his inhuman actions attacks him emotionally. The dark side of Macbeth effectively revealed to the audience. They can now detect the bad side of Macbeth and understand how the changed hero is eating up the societal members.

Macbeth embraced assassination as the available strategy to maintain his power and position as the king of Scotland (Shakespeare & In Waith, 1954). Though Macbeth killed King Duncan, the audience is made to believe that his wife introduced the concept of murder. He rules by force rather than wisdom as a

noble king who is appreciated and loved by the people of Scotland (Shakespeare, 1990). By the time the play is over, Macbeth has killed four people in pursuit of protecting his position as a king. His thoughts and personality are controlled by the witches and his wife who acts as a building block for Macbeth’s demise.

Furthermore, his ambition of becoming the King of Scotland contributed to his character erosion. His ambition plus the influence of Lady Macbeth makes him violent, greedy and with power hunger. His thirst for the position makes him assassinate King Duncan. His tragic errors influence the Scottish people to remove him from power (Shakespeare & In Waith, 1954). Macbeth had already established a bloody path to his current position; therefore, his downfall was expected. He begins to fear for his position and life as all the people of Scotland were against his rule and wanted him dead. In his mind, he knew that the people of Scotland were against him and did not want him in the position following his deadly and manslaughter rule (Shakespeare, 1990). But, he wholly relied on the advice and ideas his wife and the witches who were misleading him.

The witches advised him to keep calm and fearless as no man born of a woman would ever think of revenging. He was assured that he will remain the king of Scotland until the Great Birnam wood trees attack the Dunsinane. He believed their words and did little to defend his castle. Later on, he is attacked by Macduff, who beheads his as a way of protecting the society from the dangers of the bloody king (Shakespeare, 1884).

Out of this, the audience came to learn about the risks of influence, prophecies, and uncontrolled ambition. Therefore, the external forces from Lady Macbeth and the witches intensified his ambition to become a King. Though, these forces wholly contributed to his downfall and eventually his death (Shakespeare & In Waith, 1954). That is, his enthusiasm eroded his character contributing to his downfall. His personal traits painted him as an infamous character in Shakespeare’s work.


From the character evaluation, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragedy. This is because, all scenes represent dangerous actions that are covered by disastrous activities propagated by the protagonist (Shakespeare, 1990). Macbeth is the principal character in the play which acts as a heroic figure at the play’s beginning but ends up being a manslaughter to maintain his position and rule in Scotland. His tainted blood way up created his downfall (Shakespeare, Harrison, & Olivier, 1950). Therefore, it may be argued that as a heroic figure in the play, Macbeth prepared for his destruction through the devastating ambition.

Additionally, the play creates fear and pity in the audience mind. The audience is left sympathizing of how a king would end up dying out of his negative downfall. The audience is placed in his worries and fears after he realizes that the people of Scotland will revenge due to his evil deeds. Variously, his reliance on corrupt activities makes the audience pity his success as a King (Shakespeare, 1990). Though he is courageous, the turn of events till his death creates fear and worry among the audience.
Does the play have a similar structure to one of the other plays and how so?

Yes, Macbeth and Othello

have a similar structure, and both explores tragic heroes who fail due to increased ambition, jealousy and distrust in their societal structures. They both represent the flaws of tragic heroes. Shakespeare gives his characters some traits that are identical with the audiences in order to make it easy for emotional attachment with the play (Shakespeare, 1886). It makes it easy for the audience to sympathize with the life of these powerful people, leaders, and kings. For example, the death of Macbeth creates a better understanding for the audience to relate with Othello (Shakespeare, Hudson & In Black, 1926).

In both Othello and Macbeth, the tragedies exposed to the audience are similar. Both cases involve individuals who are struggling for political positions, setting a darker vision in their move towards maintaining their political position. In both cases, both characters are admired by the countrymen who feel that they have all it takes to lead a kingdom (Shakespeare, 1886). For example, even though Othello was a foreigner, his character is appreciated more by the people as compared Desdemona and Brabantio. On the other hand, Macbeth is described as a gentleman, a man who has the capability and potential to lead the people of Scotland in future.

Moreover, Macbeth and Othello have similar characters who are influenced and shaped by their experience in war fields. For example, the audience is introduced to Macbeth during the bloody struggle between Macdonwald and Macbeth. Macbeth appears as a champion of the people by slicing his opponent into two. On the other hand, the heroism of Othello is showcased to the audience after his confrontation with Brabantio (Bradley, 1905). The courage portrayed by Othello

and how he handles the rude Brabantio makes his appear as a genius leader who uses wisdom to make decisions. Though, their aggressiveness and personality create a character that nurtures their downfall.
Also, both characters cultivate their own path to downfall. They both pull the audience emotions towards sympathizing with them. The external forces in their environment influence them to conduct the flaws that contribute to their downfall. For example, the influence of Iago leads to Othello’s downfall while Macbeth’s demise is cultivated and inclined by Lady Macbeth (Raatzsch, 2009). The external individuals empower the aggressive forces within the principal characters that contribute to their demise. For example, King Duncan would never have been killed were it not for the Macbeth’s ambition to become the king of Scotland. His ambition and thirsty to become a king are fueled by the influence and plot laid before him by Lady Macbeth (Shakespeare, 1884).

The same case is found in Othello’s, were it not for the deception presented to him by Iago, he would not have killed Desdemona (Shakespeare, 1990). Iago and Lady Macbeth are two characters who contribute in changing the personality and behavior of the protagonists. If Iago were not present, Othello would have maintained his position as a soldier who was ready to die for his people (Shakespeare, 1990). Similarly, if Lady Macbeth were not present, Macbeth would not have fastened his move to becoming the king of Scotland. Therefore, the presence of these two external sub-heroes (Lady Macbeth and Iago) changes the behavior and personality of the principal character directing them to their downfall.

In addition, Iago and Macbeth are portrayed as characters who understand the main

characters in an extended manner. For example, Lady Macbeth seems like a wife to Macbeth while Iago is the closest friend to the ruling authority (Raatzsch, 2009). Therefore, they understand the needs of the main characters and has the power to change and influence them towards the direction they require. They both modify the noble characters to blood shedding and fearless individuals in the society.

In both cases, the audience is made to believe that the some external forces (Witches in Macbeth and belief in the “Handkerchief” superpowers in Othello) that forces them to kill their opponents. For example, after Desdemona dropped the handkerchief, Othello believe that the woman was cheating behind his back and ended up killing her (Bradley, 1905). On the other hand, the witches’ prophecies make Macbeth believe that he is supposed to become the King of Scotland, therefore, empowering him to kill King Duncan. That is, the external forces in both plays try to influence the protagonist to do aware with all the objects blocking their ways. But they didn’t know that they were preparing their own downfall (Shakespeare, 1990). At the end of it all, Othello’s downfall is plotted out of suspected adultery while Macbeth’s downfall is signed after his blood-shedding encounters on his way to the castle.

In general, the structure of both plays revolves around the ‘throne’ as the central theme. Both characters are struggling for the topmost positions in their societies. More so, they both rely on external forces and supernatural to dictate their future (Shakespeare, 1884). For example, Othello depends on Magic while Macbeth is based on prophecies from the witches. Variously, both plays use women as the

hidden drive force of the principal character actions. For example, Desdemona in Othello and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Bradley, 1905). The protagonist in both cases is made to die in most terrifying and depressing way doing both works to be considered as a tragedy.


From the case study of Macbeth and Othello, the protagonist downfall is caused by his own personal faults powered from internal vision, Greed, Jealousy or ambition. Their imperfection and character is molded by environment preparing them for the downfall. For instance, the presence of Lady Macbeth prepares Macbeth for his demise (Shakespeare, 1990). Therefore, as echoed by Aristotle in his theory of Tragedy, the plot, structure and characters in the play may apply actions that instill fear, pity and distractors conclusion to the protagonist making the whole play described as a tragedy (Aristotle, Benardete, & Davis, 2001). That is, Macbeth plot, character, and structure revolves around Murder, death and struggle for power and eventually downfall of the protagonist.


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