Similarly,the play Macbeth challenges Aristotle’s unity of action. The playhas many subplots that fail to follow a consistent flow of action.For instance, the first scene takes place in a desert place andinvolves a conversation among the three witches. In the conversation,the three witches are discussing their next meeting point wherebyeveryone seems to have a suggestion. In the second scene, the actionshifts to another. In this scene, King Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain,and some of his attendants are meeting one of the sergeants whohappen to be bleeding. The action is a shift from scene I, and hereKing Duncan seeks to find out who the sergeant is. Malcolm introducesthe sergeant to the King and informs him about the sergeant’s bravefight. The sergeant later takes the conversation, updating KingDuncan on how other sergeants like Banquo are fairing on in thebattlefield (Shakespeare1-3).
Ina similar manner, the action in scene three changes. The actionembarks on a conversation between the three witches with an entirelydifferent topic. All through the play, the actions keeps on changing,and the play has many subplots. As such, the play challengesAristotle’s unity of action.
Simplevs Complex Plot
Accordingto Aristotle, a simple plot presents continuous actions in a play ora story, without incidences of reversal, which entails the contraryoutcome of an anticipated event. It also lacks recognition among thecharacters because its actors do not undergo a transition from eitherlove to hate, or ignorance to knowledge, all for the purpose destinedby the narrator. On the other hand, complex plots may include theelements of reversal or recognition or both, which should be inherentin the actions of the plot to guide the sequence of the play (Butcher5).
Phaedra,the play by Jean Racine is a tragedy that elicits fear and pity dueto events that translate to the death of the protagonist. It fits asa perfect tragedy because it follows a complex plan and the eventsthat transition to the killing of Hippolytus result from an error inthe accusations made against him on attempts to rape his stepmotherPhaedra. A reversal event surfaces at the beginning of the play whenPhaedra confides her love for her stepson Hippolytus to Oenone. Onhis return from hunting, Oenone tries to entice Hippolytus to merrywith the company of women and take advantage of the chance given, buthe detested the nurse’s ideas by associating womankind with evil.Similarly, after Hippolytus’ death, recognition occurs when hisfather, Theseusis put into the limelight through Phaedra confessionof her admiration to her stepson.
Aristotleidentifies with tragic recognition and the first one that surface inthe Phaedra play is recognition by sign (Butcher9).Hippolytus identifies with a sword and him abandoning it at Phaedra’smakes Theseus believe that his son attempted to rape Phaedra. Theidea of Phaedra’s love towards his stepson triggers memoryrecognition of her mother, who lusted on a bull to the extent ofgiving birth to an offspring. The flashback of events in her familymakes her claim of a curse bestowed on her by an angry ancestor.Therefore, the elements the play posit as evidenced above aligns withAristotle’s view on plots, and it confirms it is a tragic play,with a complex plan.
Theuse of comic relief, the hero’s death in the conclusion, and thehero’s recognition of his/her flaws are some of the characteristicsthat make Shakespearean tragedy unique. First, Shakespeare has widelyused comic relief in his works. In fact, in the play “Othello,”he uses comic relief to lighten the spirit of a rather tragic play.For instance, Shakespeare employs the use of comic relief in Act II,scene I, moments before Othello and Desdemona reunite in Cyprus. Inthis particular comic relief, Desdemona and Lago engage in anargument about women and their role in the society. As the argumentcontinues, one notes the great element of comical relief theargument seems to lack purpose and coherence. Comically, Lagosuggests that women are lazy and the only good thing they are good atis sex. Similarly, Lago continuously refers to sex, further fuelingthe comedy, while Desdemona laughs endlessly(Bradley n.p).
Similarly,Shakespearean tragedy entails the death of the hero in the play’sconclusion. Death of the hero in the play is the designation of thetragedy in Shakespeare’s work. At the end of the play, Othello diesin a disturbing manner. Before resolving to die, Othello has concernson how people are going to remember him. In this line, he asks thosearound him to make a description of himself. He also emphasizes onhis status as an outside in a way that he had not done beforethroughout the play. Just before his demise, he remembers a momentwhereby he fought to defend Venice by smiting the foe he then stabshimself to death. The death of Othello marks the end of the play. Assuch, death in the conclusion of a play is a characteristic thatdistinguishes Shakespearean tragedy from the rest(Bradley n.p).
Furthermore,the hero’s recognition of his/her flaws is another uniquecharacteristic in the Shakespearean tragedy. At first, Shakespearepresents Othello as a strong person and honorable. However, at theend of the play, Shakespeare points out the faults of Othello.Moments before his death, Othello is anxious to know his character.In particular, he acknowledges that jealous has been part of hisundoing.
AnIndividual and State in a Neoclassical
Ina neoclassical tragedy, there was a close connection between anindividual and a state. So close that the demise of a hero posed athreat to the stability of a monarch. Besides, the neoclassicaltragedy was such that the fall of an individual, especiallyheroes/heroines characterized the fall of the state. The connectionbetween an individual and a state in a neoclassical tragedy offersinvaluable insights into the dangers of monarch states (Quintn.p).
Oneof the important lessons we can learn from the neoclassical tragedyis the lack of instability in monarch states. In most cases, anindividual who conquers or murders a king ascends to leadership. Forinstance, Macbeth had to murder Duncan to be a king. In thepersuasion of his wife, Macbeth stabs King Duncan to death(Shakespeare 27).The following morning, he also murders the chamberlains and takes theKingship position. Upon the death of Duncan, Malcolm and Donalbainmove to England and Ireland for fear of their lives. Besides, leadersin position fear being forced out of the throne by competing persons.For instance, Macbeth feared that Banquo’s heirs might overthrowhim. He, therefore, mobilizes individuals to murder Banquo andFleance. As such, the close connection between an individual and astate in a neoclassical negatively influences the stability of astate.
Bradley,Andrew Cecil. Shakespearean: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.Library of Alexandria, 2013.
Butcher,S. H. "On the Nature and Elements of ." Aritotle(384-322) B.C. ThePoetics.11, 350 B.C.E.
Quint,David. The of Nobility on the Seventeenth -Century Stage.n.d.
Shakespeare,William. Macbeth.Cambridge University Press, 1997.