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Macbeth. Progression of a Tragic Hero

Kevin Durran Ms. Bural ENG3U1-02 November 27, 2011 Macbeth, the Progression of a Tragic Hero “In tragedy people are tested by great suffering and must face decisions of ultimate consequence. Some meet the challenge with deeds of despicable cruelty, while others demonstrate their ability to confront and surpass adversity, winning our admiration and proving the greatness of human potential” (Aristotle).

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The character Macbeth is an archetypal paragon in Shakespearean literature; he truly embodies the title of the tragic hero.

The aspects that lead to the Protagonist’s downfall are countless; three major factors contribute to his progression to the tragic hero. The first being the prophecies from the witches, Lady Macbeth’s malicious influence that disoriented his counsel and lastly his ambition to achieve greatness by becoming King. Curiosity and tragedy have gone hand in hand throughout history; the aphorism “Curiosity killed the cat” can be personified through Macbeth’s demise as his curiosity is remedied by the witch’s prophecies.

The witch’s vague foretelling only lead Macbeth to curiosity, by stating the two titles he does not have “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! ” (I, III, 49-50) inciting Macbeth’s confusion to be solved from the counsel of his wife. While each prophecy is said his level of curiosity increases. Another example of Macbeth’s curiosity is shown through his hallucinations as he goes forth with the murder of Duncan, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?

Come let me clutch thee… a dagger of the mind, a false creation… Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear” (2, I, 41-42, 46, 65). The quote projects . Macbeth tends to format his ideal future by using false prophecies which in turn rid him of his worries and concerns for these prophecies prophesised that he will stay king. To assuage Macbeth’s curiosity he wanted the prophecies to make him what he wanted to hear. The definition of Emasculation is to make a man less of a man through verbal influence; such examples of this are shown from the character Lady Macbeth, who contributes to Macbeth’s downfall.

Lady Macbeth has shown countless times why she is such a large factor to Macbeth’s demise; she is portrayed as a manipulative prick. By ultimately forcing Macbeth to go along and murder Duncan she introduces him to the beginning of his tragedy, because of her planning out the murder she ultimately distorts his judgement. After the shaky Macbeth assassinated his dear king, the audience will notice a change in character as regret as a noble Macbeth turns into a depressed and confused King.

Duncan’s murder was just the beginning, to maintain his authority and reign over Scotland he continued to kill because murder at the time seemed to ensure his title. Lady Macbeth is considered a large factor in the progression of Macbeth an honourable nobleman to the tragic hero; she relayed the concept of murder to him initiating his fulfillment of his deep dark desires. Macbeth’s ambition is minor factor in his progression towards him being the tragic hero. His ambition alone was never such a striving force, Lady Macbeth’s emasculation magnified/provoked thoughts of Duncan’s murder.

His ambition was never so great that he would actually assassinate his king but the medleys of the prophecies which added to his level of curiosity awakened his dormant aspirations. The emasculation he received from his wife added to his ambitions, as almost he was challenged to murder the king, this shows a great example of his fall from loyalty to the tragic hero. With these new factors adding to his ambition, greed, lust, violence combines to a malicious power hungry tyrant. “Tragedy occurs when noble or great persons are led, through pride or a secret flaw in their personalities, to suffering that changes their fortune.

The tragic hero must begin in a high position and end in death or some sort of degraded role”. The whole play inevitably showed character change, of not only Macbeth but others around him influence by the acts he committed. His ambition, emasculation, the witch’s prophecies and excessive ambition lead to his demise. The character Macbeth is an archetypal paragon in Shakespearean literature; he truly embodies the title of the tragic hero. Quotes: EMASCULATION: Macbeth says of his wife: “undaunted mettle should compose/ Nothing but males. ” (I, vii, 73-74).

He notices his wife’s unnatural, unwomanly strength and ambition, and he feels that only men should have such power. Lady Macbeth says: “… unsex me here,/ And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full/ Of direst cruelty” (I, v, 41-44). She is calling for the strength to cast away the guilt of the crime, and she realizes she needs to suppress all femininity in order to pull through. She also says: “make thick my blood,/ stop up the access and passage to remorse. “(I, v, 43-44). and: “Come to my woman’s breasts,/ And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers. (I, vii, 47-48). She needs to suppress her femininity to chalk up the strength to conquer her conscience. Curiosity: act 1 scene 2 All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis! |  |  50| Second Witch | All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! |  | Third Witch . “Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife! ” and “The power of man, for none of woman born/Shall harm Macbeth” and then finally “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until/ Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinaine Hill/ Shall come against him. Read more: http://wiki. answers. com/Q/What_was_the_three_witches_prophecy_to_Macbeth#ixzz1eg86iOxiAMIBTION| All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! | | Quote #1BANQUO […] My noble partner You greet with present grace and great prediction Of noble having and of royal hope, That he seems rapt withal. To me you speak not. If you can look into the seeds of time, And say which grain will grow and which will not, Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear Your favors nor your hate. (1. 3. 2)|

After hearing the witches predict that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, Banquo notes that his friend is “rapt withal,” suggesting that Macbeth is consumed or entranced by the prophecy. Banquo is eager to hear what the witches have in store for him and we can see that Banquo is ambitious – he’s pleased as punch when he learns his heirs will be kings (even though he will never wear the crown). Yet, Banquo never takes drastic measures to gain power for himself or his heirs, which makes him a foil to Macbeth who, eventually, will stop at nothing to secure his power.

Macbeth’s tragic flaw is excessive ambition; ambition by itself is not a bad thing. But Macbeth’s ambition gets the best of him, and he begins to feel “bulletproof” — no man born of woman can kill him and he will come to ruin when Birnam Wood doth come to high Dunsinane Hill. How can a man NOT be born of woman? And how can a wood move? But Macbeth’s undoing comes when he allows Fleance to escape. He returns with the army disguised as trees that move toward Dunsinane and Macduff was “untim’ly ripped from his mother’s womb. ” Fleance’s escape is the beginning of his undoing. Quote #2MACBETH

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. (1. 3. 9)| After the weird sisters predict that Macbeth will be king, his thoughts turn to “murder,” which the sisters have said nothingabout. Could it be that the witches’ prophesy awakens within Macbeth a murderous ambition that was there all along? Quote #3MACBETH [Aside] The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.

The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. (1. 4. 4)| By the time Malcolm is proclaimed Prince of Cumberland and heir to the throne of Scotland, Macbeth is willing to push all morality aside. He knows that killing Duncan in order to become king is wrong, which is why he says it’s necessary to hide his “black and deep” desires. Here, ambition is portrayed as something dark and ugly. 33   Is this a dagger which I see before me, 34   The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. 35   I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. 36   Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible 7   To feeling as to sight? or art thou but 38   A dagger of the mind, a false creation, 39   Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain? > ACT 2, SCENE 1, LINE 33-39 Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear 58   Thy very stones prate of my whereabout, 59   And take the present horror from the time, 60   Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:   61   Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. (Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee… a dagger of the mind, a false creation… Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear) 33-34, 38, 57)