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William Shakespeare wrote a number of tragedies Macbeth one of them. Its most famous tragedy on English literature history.  A tragic hero must be good but he is not perfect. He has some error in judgment as a result of which he moves from happiness to misery and ultimately dies. In Poetic Aristotle says that, “This is the sort of man who is not conspicuous for virtue and justice, and whose fall into misery is not due to vice and depravity, but rather to some error, a man who enjoys prosperity and a high reputation, like Oedipus and Thystes and other famous members of families like theirs.” 

Macbeth is an example of Shakespearean tragic hero. He is a person of great eminence. He is a man of noble birth and holds a lofty position in society. He has certain exceptional qualities, which command respect, and makes him above the common run of mankind. He is presented in the play as one who is much above the ordinary beings. Shakespeare has introduced him as a brave general, a bold, resolute man of action. 

The tragic hero is neither too good nor too bad. In the character of Macbeth we also find both the good and bad sides. When the Witches prophesy that Macbeth will be the king, he begins to have dark thoughts of becoming the king: 

“My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man...” 

Ultimately, he assassinates King Duncan and becomes the king. He also does many heinous act including ordering the murders of Banquo and Fleance, as well as the slaughter of every single member of Macduffs family in order to retain the throne. 

However, Macbeth is not bad at all. At the beginning of the play, he is lauded as a great and loyal soldier. Macbeth defeated Macdonwald and the Norwegian king in the battle. He is described as the ‘valour’s minion’ and ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’. Being pleased with Macbeth the king has granted him the title of Thane of Cawdor and decides to honour him by visiting his palace in Inverness. Macbeth’s hesitancy over committing regicide, “We will proceed no further in this business...” is also evidence of the fact that he is not an innately ‘evil’ person. 

Macbeth also possesses a fatal flaw in his character. His ambition is his tragic flaw which leads him to his doom. The Witches prophesize that Macbeth will be the Thane of Glamis, and the Thane of Cawdor, and the “king hereafter”. Their prophesies make him ambitious. After the fulfilment of the first prophecy, he becomes restless for the fulfilment of the final prediction of becoming the king of Scotland. This prophecy of becoming king gives birth to the evil in his mind and being inspired by Lady Macbeth he murders Duncan to gain the throne, which is the first and most serious step towards his tragedy. 

The suffering the tragic hero arouses pity and fear. But the fall of Macbeth arouses less sympathy than that of other tragic heroes such as Hamlet, King Lear and Othello, because of his unscrupulous ambition. Macbeth is different from other tragic heroes. He forfeits our sympathy after the middle of the play. He begins as a hero but ends as a villain. From a brave soldier and noble person, Macbeth reaches a state when he is a soulless person and finally slaughtered like a beast. But when he meets his doom, we feel that poetic justice has been done. 


English Literature said...

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Macbeth as a Tragic hero

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