Macbeth: Tragic Hero Essay, Research Paper
A Shakespearean tragic hero may be defined as “an exceptional being of high degree” who contributes to his own degeneration and illustrates a personality flaw. The character of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is in all ways the perfect example of a tragic hero. His greatness and bravery in battle for his country ultimately leads him to be a great thane and eventually a powerful king, making his actions have a significant impact on a country. Macbeth’s ambition on becoming a king leads to an obsession to remain in his current position. His ambition comes to a point where he falls to the temptation of evil which leads to Macbeth’s inevitable downfall.
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is portrayed as a brave man whose performance in Scotland’s battle is celebrated. This is clearly evident from the courage in defense of Scotland in the opening scene. A wounded solider describes Macbeth’s actions as
“Cannons overcharg’d with double cracks … Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe” Act 1, scene 2, line 37-39
With such positive feedback from the battle, King Duncan can not help but be joyous towards Macbeth and his soldiers. His response to the valiant news is giving him a title which upbrings him from his present position
“No more thane of Cawdor shall deceive … and with his former title greet Macbeth… What hath lost noble Macbeth hath won”
Before the hearing of his new title, Macbeth as well as his partner Banquo encounter three witches who give Macbeth a look of what his future beholds.
With each word spoken from the witches, the importance he holds for Scotland increases. From Thane of Glamis, to Thane of Cawdor and eventually the all and mighty king. With all the praises he receives and learning about his new title, Macbeth’s ambition to become a powerful king can not help but rises.
Macbeth wins a battle and proves loyal to Duncan, however his ambition to become King is too strong to keep his morals. When his ambition is associated with the witch’s prophecies, his morals become non-existent for he is easily persuaded into what he wants to hear. For a moment Macbeth’s ambition takes over, when the thought of killing Duncan comes across his mind, however morality takes over.
“Why do I yield to such suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair… If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir”
In spite of this, Macbeth’s moral decision is clouded by his ambition once again when he hears of Malcolm’s succession to the throne. Wanting to become king and believing the witches, at this point he will not allow anything to get in the way of his future. Once Macbeth arrives home his plans change once again, knowing her husband is known for going back on a decision, Lady Macbeth decides to be the push he needs to go through with the plan. The failing of his decision reflects on her when she taunts his manhood. With frequent changes of the mind Lady Macbeth finally appeals to his ambition, Macbeth decides it’s time to get rid of the person that’s keeping him from the throne. Macbeth’s crave for power and moral weakness lead him to evil suggestion which inevitably lead to his downfall.
After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is consumed by a life of evil. He is aware of the wrong he has committed of which he wishes it never took place, but he is also aware that he can never turn back. Macbeth makes the mistake of relying solely on the witches prophecies . He begins to think that all are against him, and with that thought he decides to kill his noble friend, Banquo in hopes of securing his crown.
“Whose being I do fear; and under him my genius is rebuk’d… They hail’d him father to line of kings… If’t be so, for Banquo’s issue have I fil’d my mind”
Consumed by the words of the witches, Macbeth refers back to them and is giving four more prophecies. The second apparition given makes him feel as though he is invincible because the apparition states no man born of women can him. This gives Macbeth the impression that he can committed any crime and get away with it. The biggest mistake of Macbeth’s rein of terror is the killing of Macduff’s family, with the news of his family’s death he vows to kill Macbeth for all that he has done to Scotland but particularly his family. Macbeth’s ill-fated decision proves to be his last. Macbeth misinterpreted his own power into believing he was invincible, he mistakenly believed he could change fate.
Throughout the development of the play, Macbeth changes from a brave, courageous, and loyal man to an evil being. His ambition and his sole belief in the witches prophecies brought Macbeth to his tragic end as well as others. The fatal end of a fine natured person leads to the conculsion that Macbeth is indeed a tragic hero.