Macbeth Essay, Research Paper
In Shakespeare?s tragedies, one element is consistent- the tragic hero.
Each tragic hero shares certain traits that contribute to his tragedy.
From Othello to Macbeth, each hero is a man of high estate or high
ranking. Also, they each possess some flaw or obsession that will
eventually lead to their demise. The characters do not have to be
inherently ?good?, or moral, but they do have to have some undiscovered
potential that makes the audience feel that they could have done great
things. The audience admires and pities these characters for that
reason, but when the death of the tragic hero comes it often brings a
sense of relief. Macbeth is one of the best examples of a tragic hero,
and by studying the events that lead to his death, one can learn of the
process all tragic heroes go through on the path to their downfall.
Before Macbeth is even introduced to the audience, Duncan and Ross
speak of his greatness. When it is discovered that the Thane of Cawdor
has surrendered, Duncan decides to give Macbeth this title: ?What he
hath lost noble Macbeth hath won? (1.2.70). This lets the audience see
Macbeth?s rank, which starts him in the right direction for a tragic hero.
As Macbeth starts to believe the prophecies of the witches that he will
be the Thane of Cawdor, Glamis, and the King, the audience starts to
see his obsession with his destiny: ?Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not
light see my black and deep desires? (1.4.50-51). This great ambition
will turn into the flaw that hurtles Macbeth to his demise.
Macbeth is convinced, partly by his own ambition and partly because of his
wife, that he should murder Duncan in order to take the position of King.
In accordance with the other tragedies, the events that follow move rather
quickly, and Macbeth kills Duncan: ?I go, and it is done. The bell
invites me. / Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell/ That summons thee
to heaven or to hell? (2.1.63-65). Macbeth is to be coronated King,
but as with other tragic characters, he seems to be isolated from the
people who he began this journey with. When the audience hears his
plans to kill Banquo, it is obvious that Macbeth has transformed into
a completely evil character: ?It is concluded, Banquo, thy soul?s
flight, / If it find heaven, must find it out tonight? (3.1.143-144).
Not even his wife is involved with all of his affairs anymore, and it
seems as if his ambitions have become so compulsive that nothing will
stop him. Macbeth is suffering from his isolation, and his symptoms!
of sleeplessness and hallucinations of Banquo?s ghost are proof of this,
as Lady Macbeth gives this advice: ?You lack the season of all natures,
In scene 6 of act 3, the audience learns of the army that is getting
together against Macbeth lead by Malcolm. This is the opposition that
is present in each tragedy used to bring it to a conclusion. Macbeth,
however, is sure that he will reign victorious since the witches
prophesized that ?Macbeth shall never vanquished be until/ Great Birnam
Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/ Shall come against him? (4.1.92-94). He is
sure that this is impossible, but when Malcolm orders each soldier to
carry a branch from a tree as they attack Macbeth?s castle, it seems
that Macbeth?s death is inevitable. When he learns of his wife?s death,
he realizes that his ambition has lead to his downfall and that he will
die: ?I ?gin to be aweary of the sun,/ And wish th? estate o? the world
were now undone? (5.5.49-50).
In his last attempt at greatness, Macbeth runs out to the battlefield
to fight with Malcolm?s army. He is not afraid of dying since the
witches also told him that: ?for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth?
(4.1.80-81). He defeats Siward, but then is confronted by Macduff.
Macbeth realizes that his end is near when he learns that Macduff was
not born from a woman but instead: ?Macduff was from his mother?s womb/
Untimely ripped? (5.8.15-16). Macbeth is killed by Macduff and order
is restored to Scotland with the naming of a new King, Malcolm.
MACDUFF.————The time is free.
I see thee compassed with thy kingdom?s pearl,
That speak my salutation in their minds,
Whose voices I desire aloud with mine:
Hail, King of Scotland! (5.8.55-59)
Shakespeare, William. ?Macbeth.? The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Longman, 1997. 1219-1255.