Macbeth Not A Tragic Hero Essays

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As with most Shakespearean tragic heroes, there is no clear cut answer to this question, so a critic (or student) must make a decision where she/he will go with the argument.

To say that Macbeth is not an Aristotelian hero shortchanges a complete analysis of the character and the play.  There syands a strong argument that Macbeth does follow Artstotle's criteria for a tragic hero.  The hero must be of noble stature in some way, like a primce, king, or, yes, great military hero and powerful thane.  The hero should also not be perfect, thus, the "tragic flaw" inherent in his character - and we see this is Macbeth's ambition right from the start when Duncan names his son Malcolm as heir to the throne: "That is a step / On which I must fall down or else o'erleap, / For in my way it lies" (1.4.55-57).  This ambition blinds him from the Weird Sisters temptation to ruin his soul by suggesting that he would be King, and, as Banquo reminds Macbeth, that the "instruments of darkness tell us truths / [...] to betray's / In deepest consequence" (1.3.136-38).

Aristotle suggests the following formula for the tragic hero - that, from his tragic flaw, he makes what's translated as an "error in judgment" that leads to unintended consequences, downfall, and  death.  Macbeth, like all tragic heroes, is blinded by hubris, he cannot initially see (nor does he care to consider) the possible consequences of his mudering of Duncan.  He fulfills the applicable definitions of "hubris" - both the more modern "exhibition of pride or disregard for basic moral law," and the more classic Greek, "actions taken in order to shame the victim, thereby making oneself seem superior." (Think about the report of how Macbeth defeated Scotland's enemies). These consequences ensue immediately after Duncan's murder when Macbeth kills the King's guards (tpo cover up his crime) and when Malcolm and Donalbain leave Scotland, both suspicious of their father's death.

Aristotle also suggests that the tragic hero, before his death, faces an "anagnorisis," or "the point in the plot [...] at which the protagonist recognizes his [...] true identity or discovers the true nature of his or her own situation" ( This is NOT an admittance of a mistake - it is merely a recognition of his true situation.  For Macbeth, it's not until Macduff enters and tells Macbeth that "Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripped" (5.8.19-20).  We know how it ends.

Thus, a strong argument can be made that Macbeth does follow Aristotle's formula for a tragic hero.  Some critics will argue that Macbeth stands as a near-perfect tragic hero according to Aristotle's criteria.  All tragic heroes are influenced by something (in this case, the Weird Sisters and Lady Macbeth) - but, ultimately, the tragic hero makes the decision and commits the act that brings about his downfall.  It is Macbeth who goes into that room and kills Duncan, and the unintended consequences directly follow.

Macbeth: A Tragic Hero? Essay

790 Words4 Pages

Macbeth: A Tragic Hero?

A Tragic Hero is a common figure in many of Shakespeare’s works. A Tragic Hero is usually a figure of royalty, fame or greatness. This person is predominately good, but falls from prominence due to personality flaws that eventually lead to self-destruction.
Macbeth’s major flaws are his ambition and impressionability. Due to their flaws, a Tragic Hero’s actions are often atrocious and cause them to battle with their conscience after their desires have been accomplished. These battles with their conscience evoke empathy from the audience. A Shakespearean Tragic Hero will always lose their life in the end of the play as a result of re-establishment of what is good in the play. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the title…show more content…

They way in which he is addressed by the influential members of his country further informs the reader that Macbeth is respectable. However, after Macbeth interacts with the three witches, his curiosity is stirred by their prophecies, especially their prediction that he will become king. He commits murder in order to fulfill their prophecy and then returns to the three witches a second time for reassurance. The three witches, with the aid of three apparitions, then revealed to Macbeth in Act 5, Scene 1 the following prophecies:
Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff! Beware the Than of Fife!…Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Be bloody, bold and resolute. Laugh to scorn the power of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth…Be lion-mettled, proud and take no care who chafes, who frets or where conspirers are. Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.
(Shakespeare 4:1 80-107)

Because of these predictions, Macbeth believes that no one can harm him. However, this is a false sense of security. Macduff, who was born by a Caesarean section and therefore was not born of woman, ultimately killed Macbeth, thus revealing that the witches predictions were only half-truths.

Macbeth’s good nature is increasingly defeated by one of his major flaws-ambition. His ambition and desire to become king leads

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