Why Macbeth is a tragic hero
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Starting the conversation about Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is important to determine who a tragic hero is. Generally, we come across tragic heroes in literature, cinematography, theater, etc. This character is a central figure in a tragedy, and the action revolves around them. A tragic hero is someone with a hidden weakness that could someday lead to their character’s downfall. They are the ones to face any failure with courage and dignity. Typically, a tragic hero is always a gloomy person with high social standing, is seen as a respectable character, and is genuinely loved by the masses. Macbeth is a great example of a protagonist in a play since this Scottish general consists of the traits inherent to tragic heroes.
With this in mind, it is safe to assume that Macbeth is, in fact, a tragic hero.
Macbeth, the man of aristocratic descent
To begin with, Macbeth’s family was considered aristocratic and well-recognized in society. After all, King Duncan was his uncle. More importantly, Shakespeare, in his play, introduces us to a general who proudly served under the Scottish King.
Overall, Macbeth can be considered a great soldier. For example, in the 2nd scene of the 1st act of the play, he led the King’s army into the battle. He then proceeded to kill Macdonwald, granting Macbeth’s warriors a victory. King Duncan granted Macbeth nobility, allowing the general to climb the social ladder. In other words, Macbeth was already considered a courageous general with a great reputation. However, Duncan’s recognition made him even more respected in society. The King was truly astounded by Macbeth’s bravery, leadership, and success in battle.
The flawed ways of Macbeth
Obviously, Macbeth was a flawed man. His biggest disadvantage that put him in a disadvantage was his strong ambition. Despite being predominantly a positive trait, being ambitious played a dirty trick on Macbeth and unraveled man’s dark side. Macbeth’s thrive to be the greatest in everything he does is his main life goal that determines his day-to-day actions. He is ready to sacrifice anything to be in a position of power. In the 3rd scene of the play, one of the witches unravels that Macbeth has all chances to become a King one day soon. The man immediately believed the prophecy since the previous one about him receiving a title came true.
In the 7th scene of the 1st act, an opportunity to get rid of Duncan presented itself. Lady Macbeth is sure it is the right move for her husband despite his hesitations. Despite not making a move, Macbeth gets fixated on the idea of reigning in more power and eventually kills the King. As he gains the King of Scotland title, the former general regains control of his conscience and acknowledges his strength and power.
With a great title came the great obsession with power; thus, Macbeth would go to any length to eliminate any competitors and remain the King of Scotland. The protagonist gets tangled in this practice, so in the 3rd scene of the 3rd act, he hires people to murder Banquo, who seems like a threat.
Macbeth is dealing with the downfall
As he reached the final point, Macbeth faced a large downfall with bravery and wisdom. The battle that eventually ends in Macbeth’s death happens because the character is afraid of letting power go. He willingly accepted the inevitable death in the fight with Malcolm. While Macbeth had a reasonable advantage over Young Siward, the regained courage wasn’t enough to deal with Malcolm, who was determined to kill the protagonist. So, Malcolm and Macbeth commence a match. Malcolm brutally kills Macbeth and gains the title of King that Macbeth was so protective of.
Despite being a tragic hero, Macbeth isn’t getting too many sympathy points from the audience because of the things like not spending time mourning his deceased wife, Lady Macbeth, in the 5th scene of the 5 act. Combined with all of the murders and death that Macbeth has caused throughout the play, killing people who never did anything to the protagonist seems inhumane and wrong. He tried to convince himself that he wasn’t bad. He just had to kill because it was a part of his nature. His conscience was filled with remorse, but it couldn’t undo Macbeth’s crimes. No regrets would bring back the innocent characters like Duncan was.
Summing up, Macbeth can be considered a tragic hero because of his aristocratic origin, a unique mix of features that simultaneously make him the villain and the hero, flaws that made him commit ambiguous actions, and downfall that he faced with courage and grace. All of this makes him fit for a portrait of a real tragic hero. Despite everything on his way, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s play was able to reach success in his respective field and become a King, just as he desired from the very beginning.
- Shakespeare, W. (1992). Macbeth. Wordsworth Editions.