Why Macbeth is a Tragic Hero? – Detailed Answer

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Tragedy of Macbeth is a story written by William Shakespeare about a man who is power hungry to become king. This story is called a tragedy, a tragedy is a type of story that doesn’t have a happy ending. A tragedy will end up with the protagonist dealing or making a great sacrifice. Shakespeare has made many tragedies such a Romeo and Juliet for example. In every Tragedy there must be a tragic hero and in this story it shows that Macbeth is the tragic hero, is a round character, and also a very dynamic character. A tragic hero is the protagonist of a tragedy. The tragedy of Macbeth tells a story about a man named Macbeth that wants to be king. Macbeth was a very twisted man and was power crazy he did everything to become king he even murdered innocents and whomever stood in his way. Macbeth was considered a tragic hero because Macbeth had many people follow him he also had a down flaw that led to his death but went down heroically. Macbeth’s great downfall that proved was a tragic hero was stated as, “I will not yield to kiss the ground before Malcolm’s feet and to be baited with the rabble ‘s curse” (5, 8, 28) this quote taken from the story explains that even though Malcom is trying to kill him Macbeth claims he won ‘t yield nor beg because Macbeth thinks he has won the fight. Macbeth had a very high social rank before he murdered king Duncan to start with even though he was a general for king Duncan to begin with.

Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to Macbeth being labelled as a tragic hero. Before these factors can be discussed, it is important to understand what workings make up the characteristics of a tragic hero. Typically, a tragic hero is a figure of high stature, often of noble background. This person is predominantly good, but suffers a self-inflicted falling out due to flaws in their personality. The tragic hero has a tremendous downfall, brought about by their hamartia. The character reaches an anagnorisis, a critical discovery that completely alters the predicament they are in, often after they are already trapped in the situation. Finally, a Shakespearean tragic hero will lose their life in the end of the play so the message of what is good in the play can be reestablished. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the title figure of the play can be seen as a tragic hero.

Early on in the play, Macbeth is established as being of great stature. He has already earned the title of Thane of Glamis, and as prophesized by the three witches, will soon take reign as the Thane of Cawdor. These titles indicate that Macbeth is of great political importance, and is moving up in the ranks of Scottish nobility. In Act 1, Scene 2, Duncan addresses Macbeth as, “…valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!” and later as a “Worthy Thane”. The manner in which the leaders of his country speak about Macbeth truly shows his respectable and honorable nature. Duncan speaks highly of Macbeth,; unaware of the destiny Macbeth will later impose on him.

Macbeth’s blind ambition, along with the provoking of his wife, leads him to take a violent and bloody path to the throne. Following the format of a tragic hero, Macbeth suffers from a tragic flaw. He has multiple flaws in character, – the most prominent being his vaulting ambition and his impressionability. After the witches told Macbeth about his bright future of nobility in Scotland, his honorable nature seemed to fade, and was soon replaced by a “by any means necessary” attitude. His lust for power, along with persuasive words from Lady Macbeth, led to him murdering King Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland, which led to extreme paranoia, fearing anyone with a noble bloodline as a threat to his power. By the end of the play, four deaths can be attributed to Macbeth’s name, all murdered in hopes of protecting his kingship. His ambition blinds him from seeing the destructive path he has created, ruling as a tyrant rather than a noble king. His easily impressionable nature causes him to not form his own thoughts, but rather listen to the words of Lady Macbeth and the three witches. These tragic flaws go on to play a major role in Macbeth’s demise.

Macbeth’s tragic flaws lead him to become a tyrant, who is quickly removed from power by the Scottish people. With the bloody path he had made for himself, his fall from power was inevitable. Macbeth’s bloody actions ended with him having to fear for his own life, as thousands in Scotland wanted him dead. Macbeth was aware that his evil deeds would lead to people wanting revenge. However, he did not fear these people, as he fell for the deceptive words of the witches. The three witches told him to be bold and fearless, that no man born of a woman could defeat him, and that he will never be defeated until the trees of Great Birnam Wood attack Dunsinane. Macbeth saw both of these things as impossible, so he did little to protect his castle. He was surprised when he was told that the forest was indeed attacking his castle, which was actually Macduff’s army carrying branches as a means of надси camouflage. His true anagnorisis came during his battle with Macduff, where Macduff revealed he was not born of woman, rather he was ripped form his (11) mother’s womb, implying a Caesarean section. In this moment Macbeth was enlightened about his vulnerability. Macduff goes on to behead Macbeth, ensuring that his own family did not die in vain. With his death, Macbeth solidifies himself as a tragic hero. The audience learns the dangers of ambition, and good is reestablished.

Macbeth fits every characteristic of a Greek and Shakespearean tragic hero. Aristotle in his Poetics (Chapter V) discusses about the true nature of the tragic hero the final impression on the arousal of pity and fear. Macbeth’s downfall truly satisfied the Aristotelian definition of true tragic hero sit aroused pity and fear at the time of catastrophe. The audience gets to see the full cycle of a rise to power, followed by a great demise. His ambition leads to his degeneration as a character which resulted in his ultimate downfall, death. Macbeth displays all the characteristics of a tragic hero, making him an infamous character in Shakespeare’s time as well as present day.


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