Shakespeare Essays/Macbeth: A Tragic Hero?

Shakespeare Essays

Macbeth is depicted as both an enemy and a hero in Shakespeare’s Scottish play. In this well-known story, Macbeth encounters multiple conflicts and situations. At first, he is portrayed as a hero, but later on, he turns into an enemy. As a result of his downfall, in the end of the play, he becomes a tragic hero.

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  • To define Macbeth as a tragic hero, one needs to know what a tragic hero is. This notion has a common definition – it is an individual (or in this case – a character) who has been a good and noble person but then has been led to a downfall or death due to certain circumstances. These can include their personal flaw, judgmental errors, external pressure, and interference of natural or supernatural forces. The reader can see that all these criteria are met in “Macbeth”.

In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is depicted as a hero. He is loyal to the king and has just won a battle for his nation. Nevertheless, Macbeth has an ambition – he wants to become a king. He even imagines himself murdering his monarch to take the throne. Later he rejects this thought, understanding how wrong it is and saying, “...and to be King / Stands not within the prospect of belief... (1.3. 78-79).” When King Duncan gives the title of the Prince of Cumberland to his son, Macbeth still manages to control himself and does not follow the desire to kill the king. Lady Macbeth calls him a coward for that and persuades him to yield to his ambition, even though she realizes that it is unlawful.Eventually, Macbeth’s ambition defeats his good nature. When Macbeth kills King Duncan, he feels extreme remorse for doing that. He says, “Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant / There’s nothing serious in mortality; / All is but toys; renown and grace is dead; / The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees / Is left this vault to brag of (2.3. 101-106).”

  • Reprisal against Macbeth and his evil rule takes place when Macduff decapitates him. King Duncan’s son Malcolm becomes the new king of Scotland. Everyone hopes that he will have a stronger and fairer rule over the country than his father and Macbeth.

Throughout the play, it is seen that the character of Macbeth undergoes transformations. From a loyal and courageous person, he turns into a malevolent man. He becomes influenced not only by his own ambition but also by his belief in the prophecy and Lady Macbeth’s words. All these circumstances bring him to the loss of many people’s lives and the tragic end of his own life. Since Macbeth has been an essentially good man who became affected by various circumstances, we can call him a tragic hero.


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