How Is Macbeth a Tragedy: Essay

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Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s typical tragic heroes. He can be seen as a man with many admirable traits. However, his one mistake fills his life with fear and regret at every step. Being the protagonist of the play, he is someone who can be admired. His qualities are shown in his battle skills and at the start, we realize that Macbeth is a capable soldier and is loyal to his King. His bravery and performance in Scotland’s battle are celebrated. “For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name”. His greatness and courage in battle for his country eventually led him to be a great thane and then a powerful king, making his actions have a significant impact on his country.

His reluctance and guilt in killing Duncan also reveal his heroic nature. The reasons he gives to justify his guilt show Macbeth’s positive attributes and his potential to be a hero. “First, I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed;” This implies that Macbeth is loyal to his family and feels that he owes his King obedience. Macbeth is also shown as a hero in this way. “As his host, who should against his murderer shut the door,” shows Macbeth’s loyalty to his King as he is Duncan’s guest. Therefore, we can see that Macbeth’s conscience does not agree to kill Duncan. It can be inferred from Macbeth's words 'Not bear the knife myself.' that he feels guilty and doesn't want to be a part of such a horrific crime. He also recognizes Duncan’s favorable attributes and feels that it would be wrong to murder such a person; “Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his lofty office, that his virtues Will plead like angels.' This indicates that he thinks highly of Duncan and respects him as he does not misuse his power. It shows that he knows the importance of Duncan and that everyone will cry at his death. This again reinforces the idea that Macbeth is a tragic hero as he may not have committed murder without the presence of Lady Macbeth. The quote “Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye” shows that he thinks Duncan is loved by all and everyone will cry in his absence. Therefore, we can see that Macbeth has many good traits and did not want to kill Duncan. He was tempted by Lady Macbeth, making him a tragic hero as he knew that he was making the wrong decision. Therefore we notice that his morals are of value to him.

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However, his one flaw is responsible for the tragic events that unfold throughout the entirety of the play. His flaw is being obsessed with remaining in his current position because of his ambition to be king and acquire power. During his listing of reasons against the murder, near the end, he interrupts himself and says “but only vaulting ambition which overleaps itself and falls on thither. This shows he is a tragic hero as he recognizes from the beginning that his ambition could be the cause of his downfall. His ambition reaches a point where he falls to the temptation of evil and the consequence is his inevitable downfall. Therefore, the hero we could see, to begin with, is corrupted and Macbeth is shown as a tragic hero at the pivotal point at which all is lost. His ambition is the major cause of his downfall. At every step, his morals are taken over by his temptations. Even though he is a hero at heart, as we have seen from the start, his mistakes create a perception that he is evil. Hence, the term “tragic hero”

Although fate and ambition are responsible for Macbeth’s degeneration, Lady Macbeth and the witches are also at fault. As Macbeth becomes Thane of Cawdor and then Thane of Glamis, his dream to become King does not seem too distant. With the influence and manipulation of Lady Macbeth, the ambitions hidden in Macbeth are strengthened and her evil scheme gradually tempts Macbeth. Her manipulative character causes Macbeth to concede to her talks and his small weakness overturns his whole life and changes his noble character into a violent and evil one. This in turn causes catastrophic results for Scotland and Macbeth is seen as a dire and corrupt king. This is recognized by Malcolm; “what I am truly is thine, and my poor countries” Therefore, his heroic character becomes that of a villain, and his plan to be a successful king backfires. He is a tragic hero because he was a noble, righteous person who could have achieved much more. He would have been loved by all if he did not commit the murder of Duncan. The tragic part is that Macbeth was against murder but was under the influence of evil individuals which changed his character.

Even though the witches do not directly influence Macbeth’s decisions, their prophecies seem to leave an impression on Macbeth and boost his confidence throughout the play. His ambitions drive him to obsession. In the play, the three witches represent darkness, chaos, and conflict. The prophecies encourage Macbeth’s greed for power and make him overconfident. This leads him into making mistakes as his character becomes weak and his morals are taken over by the power and temptation of the witches’ words. This weakness leads him to evil suggestions that ultimately 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 and he wishes it never occurred. As Macbeth himself realizes and acknowledges, the wrongs cannot be undone. His actions motivated by ambition seem to trap him in a cycle of increasing evil. “I am in blood; stepp’d insofar that, should I wade no more, returning would be as tedious as to go o’er.” Another topic that labels him as a tragic hero is his misery even after achieving all that he dreamed of. Macbeth always had a dream of becoming a King. He was already a hero from the start and a noble person. However, after becoming corrupted and committing several murders his heroic side was not so evident. He was still not content after acquiring the throne and gaining so much power. This is part of what makes him a tragic hero, as, through his regret and sorrow we are able to see that he did not want the throne at the price of the lives he took. He only agreed due to the influence of the people and circumstances around him. Therefore, even though he gained all he dreamt of he was not pleased, as, within himself, he felt guilt, showing that he is a tragic hero. His heroic nature is shown right up until the end when he says “At least we’ll die with a harness on our back.” This quote shows his tremendous physical courage and his effort to be a heroic soldier right up to his death. This emphasizes what he lost and that he could have been a hero in everyone’s eyes.

Having relied exclusively on the witches' prophecies, he is convinced that everyone is against him. As a consequence, he decides to kill his noble friend, Banquo, hoping to secure his crown; “Whose being I do fear; and under him, my genius is rebuk’d… They hail’d him, father, to the line of kings… If’t is so, for Banquo’s issue have I fil’d my mind.” Macbeth can be considered a tragic hero because, in his effort to make the prophecies come true, he tried to challenge fate himself rather than allowing it to take its course. By trusting the witches he became greedy for power. As a result of this greed, he committed crimes that were previously against his moral code. This is tragic, as, despite knowing he was wrong he still continued in his desperation to remain king. He committed these evil deeds spontaneously and came to regret doing them later on in the play. Feelings such as guilt, regret, and fear are shown throughout the play. However, one main occasion they are shown is during the scene where Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost at the table with his guests. From this scene we can clearly notice that the murder of Banquo is really upsetting him and is the cause of his mental breakdown; “Hence horrible shadow, Unreal mock’ry hence.” This indicates signs of a tragic hero because his conscience is troubling him, indicating that he is truly a good-natured man.

His decision to kill Duncan is strengthened by the witches' prophecies during the play. They are somewhat responsible for creating a tragic hero of Macbeth in both sets of their apparitions. The witches' words delight Macbeth and are exactly what he wants to hear. His confidence grows and he continues with his ambition to become King. This display of curiosity shows that he wanted to know more about his intentions. ' Stay you, imperfect speakers. ' Tell me more' In the second set of prophecies, Macbeth’s confidence rises to a new level and he thinks that his victory is secure. In the second vision he sees, he feels as though he is invincible because it states” be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn The power of man, for none of the women born Shall harm Macbeth.” This creates the impression that he can commit any crime and get away with it. The other apparition warns him to be wary of Macduff. So he kills everyone in Macduff’s castle, including his family to secure his crown. However, Macduff is not born of a woman so is the man that can defeat him. She is a large threat to him as he is enraged by the killing of his family. Macbeth continues to make mistakes due to this impression, resulting in his downfall. One of the most tragic events and the biggest mistakes of Macbeth’s reign was the killing of Macduff’s family. This angers Macduff and his hatred for Macbeth becomes a promise to avenge the death of his family, and all that have suffered under his reign. So the contributions of the prophecies have influenced Macbeth’s decisions to a certain extent.

Macbeth’s vulnerability to Lady Macbeth is also the cause of his demise, making him a tragic hero. Her manipulative character and forceful nature greatly influence the evil deeds of Macbeth. At first, Macbeth is against her plan to kill Duncan and his morals overrule his ambitions. However, Lady Macbeth lures him into her trap by taunting his manhood and calling him a coward. “And live a coward in thine own esteem”. Irrespective of his feelings she hurts him by saying that she would rather kill her baby than walk back on her word; “Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums…Had I swore as you have done to do this.” Her advice about false appearances also convinces Macbeth and brings about a change within him. She gives in to evil and becomes a two-faced person; thus, she tells Macbeth to show everyone the pretense face he uses instead of hiding all the dark secrets he hides within; 'look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent beneath it.' This advice slowly enters his mind and turns his heroic character into a villain. As a result of accepting her advice, he almost dictates back these words, showing that he has now become evil. faces must hide what the false heart doth know”. This quote shows that Macbeth’s character has now gone through a major change and he is starting to instruct Lady Macbeth, so from here his downfall is evident. Lady Macbeth’s presence in his life can be seen as an influence that changed him into a tragic hero, as he may not have committed such crimes if she did not exist. She ruined an excellent soldier and corrupted a sincere person who could have been so much more than what he became. As a result of his crimes, Macbeth became a hated person in contrast to the praises he used to receive for his bravery and success. The insults of Lady Macbeth drove him into confusion and he was driven into following her evil scheme. After his first murder, his desire to maintain the reign of his people forces him to take several lives in his insecurity. This again depicts that he is a tragic hero, as, he did not intend to hurt anyone but in his desperation and under the influence of Lady Macbeth, he made many disastrous decisions.

From everything that has been mentioned so far, it is clear that Macbeth's one weakness causes his entire character to degenerate and turn him into a tragic hero. From being respected, praised, and loved by the man he becomes violent and evil. However, as readers, we consider him to be a tragic hero. This is because even though he is not bad at heart, we can see how circumstances and people around him have turned him into a hated person in Scotland. Thus, in our view, he is a tragic hero, as he could have been so much more when everyone loved him, including King Duncan. However, we can blame him for his fate as he was not forced into committing such horrific deeds, he chose to do them on his own access a result, he is also partly to blame, but in my opinion, he is a tragic hero because he lost everything, including respect, love, name, and friends. ings. His life may not have ended in such a way if Lady Macbeth and the three witches had not influenced his decisions.

Fate is a major theme in this play and many events revolve around it. It could be one of the reasons why Macbeth is a tragic hero. Macbeth felt that he could take fate into his own hands and change it according to his needs. “Rather than so, come fate into the list And champion me to th’utterance.” We realize that this was his biggest mistake as he had sole belief in the witches’ words and changed the natural cycle of events, rather than allowing them to occur according to fate. Macbeth’s religious nature is also prominent in the play as it can also be seen as a cause of his transformation into a tragic hero. He proclaims that he wants to live happily in this life no matter what the consequences are in his life after death; “We’d jump into the life to come.” This shows his belief in life after death but shows he is willing to take risks. Macbeth still believes in judgment and justice as he says “We still have judgment return to plague the inventor.” This is tragic, as, despite knowing the difference between right and wrong he became trapped in a sin that could never be undone.

The consequences of Macbeth’s decisions did not just affect him; the whole of Scotland is shaken by the changes in the natural order. The most frequent natural order shown that is disturbed is sleep. The announcement that Macbeth makes says that he has “murdered sleep” which is mirrored in Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. Ultimately, Macbeth is a tragic hero because he is driven to achieve his goal from the beginning and maintain it. Therefore, under the influence of fate, the witch's prophecies, Lady Macbeth, and ill-fated decisions, his character changed from a brave, courageous, and loyal man to an evil being, despised by most in Scotland. Malcolm describes him and Lady Macbeth at the end saying 'Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen'. This defines the sad and tragic end of what Macbeth became and what people genuinely thought of him. As a tragic hero, Macbeth has only one flaw, his ambition, which is the cause of his own downfall, making him a tragic hero.

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How Is Macbeth a Tragedy: Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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