Is Macbeth a Shakespearean Tragic Hero? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:24:05
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In many of Shakespeares plays a tragic hero appears and is often the focal point. In order to conclude whether Macbeths character falls in to that particular category. I need to consider what factors create a tragic hero. The tragic hero often originates as a figure of greatness and someone with a high social status. His greatness often degenerates due to a character flaw of some kind. The essence of many of Shakespeares tragic heroes is that the seemingly good parts of their character turn against them and instigate their downfall. The character always suffers, which creates sympathy within the reader, especially as it is in contrast with previous happiness.

Often the actions of the tragic hero create self-inflicted suffering. Other people are generally affected by his tragedy, but on differing scales depending on the play. A deep internal battle often rages within the tragic hero as he battles with his conscience, but he doesnt often listen to reason. A key factor of the tragic hero is that the audience radiate much pity and sympathy for the character. Even though he has done wrong, he was once great, and he may feel remorse for his actions. At the end of the play the tragic hero invariably dies. This is often for political reasons, or for morale impact. Goodness must always prevail.

One of the first factors I stated that creates a tragic hero is someone of greatness. Macbeth has much respect from others because of his braveness on the battlefield.

For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name-

Disdaining fortune with his brandishd steel.

Macbeth clearly has earnt praise from his peers and conducts approval from those of a higher social status. He is a loyal warrior, whose efforts are also acknowledged by even the King.

He was a gentleman on whom I built

An absolute trust.

Duncan recognises Macbeths greatness and evidently has a high opinion of him. He respects Macbeth to the point where he invests much trust within him and almost views him as an equal. These feelings from a King hugely re-enforce Macbeths greatness.

No less to have done so, let me enfold thee

And hold thee to my heart.

This implies a close relationship of affection. Such a close bond conveys that Macbeth must appear a patriotic, and just man especially in the eyes of the King. He is rewarded by adopting the title of Thane of Cawdor. He is growing in social status which is another common trait of a tragic hero.

The reader is soon to learn that despite the fact Macbeth appears to be a great man, there are many flaws in his character, the most poignant being excessive ambition.

Stars hide your fires

Let light not see my dark and deep desires.

Macbeth appears shocked at his own evil thoughts. The witches prophecies have instigated the ambitious part of his nature to be accentuated.

¦let us speak

Our free hearts to each other.

Banquo does not share Macbeths ambition, so Macbeth lies to his friend. The reader starts to see the extent of Macbeths ambitious nature.

And live a coward in thine own esteem

I dare do all that may become a man.

A huge character flaw of Macbeth is that he is easily influenced. Lady Macbeth holds so much power over him, and can manipulate him. She overpowers and influences Macbeth greatly and creates a reaction in him that favours her. This easily influenced part of his nature is also shown when the witches prophecies instigate evil thoughts within him.

Another common flaw in a Shakespearean tragic hero is jealousy. Macbeth displays this very frequently.

(Aside) The Prince of Cumberland: that is a step

On which I must fall down, or else oerleap

For in my way it lies.

Macbeth is jealous of Malcom, as he is the son of Duncan, this instigates more evil, murderous thoughts within Macbeth. This excessive ambition, jealousy, and easily influenced nature turn Macbeth into a murderer.

Despite this, Macbeth knows that Duncans murder is not just. Macbeth continually battles with his conscience during the play, and much of this guilt is radiated in his soliloquy, when he can show his true feelings.

¦As his host

Who should against his murderer shut the door

Not bear the knife myself.

Macbeth knows his role, as host should be to protect his guest: here in double trust. Macbeth acknowledges the fact that Duncan sees him in a great light and has great respect for him.

Macbeth refers to the murder as the bloody business. A euphemism is utilised as Macbeth cannot accept what he is about to do and cannot face up to this evil side of his character.

This supernatural soliciting

Cannot be ill, cannot be good.

Indecisiveness is heavily portrayed here as Macbeth is in a deep internal battle. He knows that treason is wrong, but he also longs to be King, he tries to convince himself his actions can be justified, but his conscience tell him otherwise. Macbeth wants to protect his own title and image, and doesnt want to face up to the consequences of murder, but still agonises over the decision.

Macbeth is evidently suffering greatly because of his conscience. He feels extremely guilty, but tries to hide this fact. We see much evidence of the effect his conscience has on Macbeth after the murder of Duncan.

Is this a dagger which I see before me?

The handle towards my hand?

This quotation conveys to the reader the extent of Macbeths suffering. He is affected mentally as he hallucinates and is haunted by disturbing images.

I had most need of blessing and Amen

Stuck in my throat.

Macbeth is denied the ability to turn to God. In killing the King he has commited treason against God, so his faith is refused from him. Insomnia is inflicted upon him, and Macbeth can find no solace.

We have scorched the snake, not killd it

This quotation conveys that Macbeth has no peace and stability; he knows he will need to keep on killing. He states his mind of full of scorpions clearly showing he is extremely traumatized.

Macbeth progresses to be almost envious of Duncan and Banquo.

Better be with the dead¦

Than the torture of the mind to lie

In restless ecstasy.

The murders have affected him in such a way that Macbeth yearns for the appealing peacefulness of death. These hint at primary suicidal thoughts, a hugely troubled mind is conveyed.

We see more evidence of Macbeths guilt causing him great suffering when Banquos ghost haunts him. He can no longer keep control of himself, and his mental instability is conveyed to his peers.

Thou canst not say I did it; never shake

Thy gory locks at me.

Macbeth visualises this apparition. His mental state is to the extent that he not only acknowledges the ghost, but also interacts with it, even though he is in the presence of his peers. Macbeth is highly affected by this hallucination. Not only does it affect opinion of him, but leaves him troubled and confused. Self-inflicted suffering is a poignant factor within a Shakespearean tragic hero, and another factor that applies to Macbeth. His conscience creates the ghost to be another reminder of the evil he has done. He cannot escape his guilt that his owns flaws and his own faults have manifested.

Clearly the murders are having disastrous effects on Macbeth, but his actions also affect others. Macbeths need to kill results in him planning the murder of Fleance and Banquo. He is jealous of Banquo because he knows his children will never be King.

Upon my head they placd a fruitless crown

And put a barren sceptre in my gripe.

Macbeth has a great determination to remain King and to protect his status. He almost becomes obsessed by it, and taking peoples lives becomes meaningless and just inevitable steps for him/

Give to thedge othsword

His wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls

That trace him in the line.

He is portrayed as being more than willing to kill innocent women and children if they threaten his reign as King. Macbeth is a ruthless tyrant in protecting his throne.

Macbeths actions do not just affect other people, but the earth itself. Macbeth has murdered the King, who was appointed directly by God. This Divine Right of the King means God will punish all earth fro allowing this act of treason occurs. Displeasing God is another common factor within a Shakespearean tragic hero.

Some say, the earth

Was feverous and did shake.

This quotation infers how nature is heavily disrupted.

Lady Macbeth is deeply troubled as a result of her husbands actions. She is traumatised by her conscience, and her guilt overwhelms her.


Remove from her the means of all annoyance

And still keep eyes upon her.

The Doctor appears adamant that Lady Macbeth will commit suicide, so advises Macbeth to watch over her. She hallucinates and mirrors other forms of suffering that Macbeth radiated. Eventually Lady Macbeth does kill herself, as she has been so heavily affected by her husbands deeds.

As a result of Macbeths obsession with remaining King, he proves to be an inefficient one. He is too preoccupied with his guilt and determination the whole of Scotland suffers from his lack of devotion.

Alas poor country

Almost too afraid to know itself¦

Where sighs, and groans, and shrieks that rend the air

This is yet another trait of a tragic hero. He, whether inadvertently or not, greatly inflicts suffering on others.

Despite all of this, the reader still feels a sense of pity towards Macbeth. He was once great, and one of the great factors in him turned around to be his downfall. In many ways, Macbeth was influenced into his actions. To begin with the witches planted the idea into his mind, and pushed him into justifying his actions. Lady Macbeth instigated the murder, and manipulated him to carry through with this deed. The inferiority of her gender meant she needed him to act through.

But screw your courage to the sticking place

And well not fail.

Macbeth is very easily influenced, so can be manipulated continually by Lady Macbeth.

We also feel a sense of pity, because Macbeth is so heavily affected by his actions. He is traumatised and destroyed. He often shows remorse and regret fro his actions.

Wake Duncan with thy knocking: I would thou


Macbeth is tricked by the witches prophecies. He takes the apparitions literally and is lulled into a false sense of security.

For none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth.

We feel pity as Macbeths trust and faith in the witches predictions cause his death. He is tricked into feeling protected, but the witches words have other meanings.

Readers often feel pity for the Shakespearean tragic hero, but despite this fact we accept he needs to die. Political and moral reasons dictate this fact. If he had lived, then murder and evil could be justified. Treason against the King or Queen or ultimately God could go unpunished.

Resulting from the readers accumulating sympathy for Macbeth, there is some apparent sadness surrounding his death. He is extremely brave which creates much admiration fro him.

Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane

And thou opposd being of no woman born,

Yet I will try the last. Before my body,

I throw my warlike shield.

Macbeth knows his death in an inevitable fact, but despite this he fights to the bitter end. We see some of Macbeths past greatness in his last moments.

Macbeth can be portrayed as a victim, this fact and the fact that he does adds to the effectiveness of the play. It instigates a variation of emotions within the reader, which makes it an intense experience. Without Macbeths death, much of this would be lost. This ending complies with a tragic heroes exit to a play.

I conclude that Macbeth can indeed be classified as a Shakespearean tragic hero. He radiates all of the factors I first portrayed a tragic hero to have. Macbeth falls from greatness due to a character flaw, his suffering is self-inflicted and this affects others. A continual battle with his conscience is conveyed within Macbeth, and the reader is made to pity him. We are left with a classic version of a Shakespearean tragic hero, and a very compelling character. Macbeth exuberates all of the common characteristics of one of Shakespeares favourite classifications, but is still an original figure, which greatly adds to the effectiveness of the play.

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