Last Updated 20 Jun 2022

Macbeth: A Tragic Hero

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There is much debate to whether Macbeth is a villain or hero, but it truly is clear that Macbeth is a tragic hero based on that he has the fatal flaw of having too much ambition, he was doomed to make a serious error in judgment which was killing Duncan, and that he suffered greatly in order to accomplish what he believed was right. Macbeth’s flaw of his extreme ambition is demonstrated by how he kills Duncan, how he kills Banquo, and how he kills MacDuff’s family.

He was doomed to make the serious judgment error that was killing Duncan, and he was condemned to do this because the witches prophesized it, his wife wanted him to, and he was unnaturally guided by a dagger to kill Duncan. Also he went through the death of his friends at his own hand and the death of his wife to achieve what he wanted to, and was willing to suffer for it. Macbeth showed that he had a fatal flaw, which was that his ambition was what mainly factored his decisions.

This is shown when he killed the King in his quest for power, when he killed his friend Banquo, and when he killed the wife and child of MacDuff. Early in the play Macbeth was told that he would become King of Scotland, and that really put the gears in motion for the terrible decisions he would make throughout the play. His first one was to kill Duncan, who was not only the King whom he had loyally served for a long time, but also his own cousin. He killed his own flesh and blood in order to get the opportunity to gain power.

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He figured that if he killed Duncan he would have a chance at being king, and he acted upon that thought. This thought process is shown in the quote, “If good, why do I yield to that suggestion whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs, against the use of nature? Present fears are less than horrible imaginings: My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is but what is not. ” (Act1, Scene3).

This showed that he knew what a terrible deed he would be doing, but that couldn’t stop his need to become king. Also, Macbeth killed his dear friend Banquo and even attempted to kill Fleance, Banquo’s son, in order to keep the throne. The witches prophesized that Fleance would become king, and Macbeth decided that he had already done so much to become king that there was no point in letting the throne leave him so soon, and that is shown in the quote, "I am in blood, stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go'oer" (Act3, Scene4).

He decided that he had already hit the point of no return and acted accordingly. Finally, the fact that he killed the wife and child of his enemy MacDuff, proved that Macbeth was willing to cross any line to keep his spot as king, and would let nothing stand in the way of his ambition. The quote, “The castle of Macduff I will surprise; Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line. ” (Act4, Scene1), shows that Macbeth was willing to kill an innocent family to prove that he was not ready to be defeated.

Basically Macbeth showed that his fatal flaw was too much ambition, and that was demonstrated through him killing Duncan, killing Banquo, and killing the family of MacDuff. Macbeth appeared to be destined to make the serious judgment error that was killing Duncan because when you take his ambition as talked about above, and that he was told by witches that it was his future to be king, that his wife thought it was the right thing to do, and that he even had hallucinations pointing towards killing him, it seemed like he had no other choice.

First off, Macbeth was approached by witches who told him that he would become king of Scotland and that intrigued him very much, especially with his crazy ambition. He took this to heart and because he wanted to become king and he now thought it was in the realm of possibility, yet he knew it would not happen legally, he was really left with just one option. This was despite that at the time he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. This is shown by the quote, “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! ” (Act1, Scene3).

This was just the beginning of the seed that would grow in Macbeth that eventually culminated into a plant of terrible things. Next, Lady Macbeth also influenced Macbeth, and that was presented in the quote, “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it. ” (Act1, Scene5). This just showed how Lady Macbeth reacted to the situation as though killing Duncan was the right thing to do and that Macbeth would be greatly benefited from it.

Lastly, Macbeth was influenced by a hallucination of a blood stained dagger that was meant to be stained by the blood of Duncan. One night Macbeth saw the dagger and didn’t know whether it was real or fake, and what to do with it, but then it became clear in the quote, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee… … I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell hat summons thee to heaven or to hell. ” (Act2, Scene2) This showed how Macbeth was basically shown the way to murdering Duncan by the dagger.

And from being influenced by the witches, his wife, and the dagger, it was obviously meant to be that Macbeth was going to make a serious judgment of error in killing Duncan. A tragic hero must have a capacity for suffering, and suffer because he believes in what he is doing, and because he feels both guilt and guiltlessness. Macbeth in my mind does fit into this category through all the pain and suffering he experiences throughout the play after he murders Duncan. A quote that shows he is suffering is “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?

No, this my hand will rather turn the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red. ” (Act 2, Scene2). Macbeth is just realizing that what he has done is irreversible and he will never be able to get it off of his conscious. He therefore must have the capacity for suffering, and though there are many moments when he is unsure, I believe that he truly believes in what he is doing. There are also times when Macbeth feels guilt over the act he has committed and he is never really able to shake these feelings off, but he still gladly takes over as king and moves on in life, therefore showing he feels both guilt and guiltlessness.

Again, the point is now raised that yes, he believes in what he is doing, but what he is doing is a terrible thing, and how does this make him a hero? I believe that while Macbeth isn’t your typical hero, whether his actions were right or wrong he still meets the criteria, and it is on that that I’m basing the decision. Overall, it was clear in the story that Macbeth was definitely a tragic hero. He displayed his fatal flaw that was his insane ambition, he was destined to make the disastrous make of killing Duncan, and that he is willing so suffer to achieve what he believes is right.

Macbeth showed his ambition through killing Duncan, killing Banquo, and killing Macduff’s wife and child. His serious error in judgment of killing the king was always meant to happen because three witches gave him the thought, his wife wanted him to do it, and his hallucination even pointed him towards it. To sum it up, the debate over whether Macbeth is a hero or villain should be put to rest because it is quite evident that Macbeth is a tragic, tragic hero.

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