Macbeth - A Tragic Hero

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William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, written in the 1600’s is a perfect example of Shakespeare’s ability to manipulate his audience through creating a tragic hero. A tragic hero who, because of a flaw, tumbles from a well-respected hero to a cowardless murderer. It is through Shakespeare’s manipulation of figurative language, dramatic conventions and social expectations of the seventeenth century, do the audience witness the demise of this mixed up man. Macbeth’s persona of the tragic hero is enhanced even more when the characters around him influence his decisions, creating mayhem inside his mind and disorder throughout Scotland. Shakespeare positions his audience to respond to the central theme: the struggle between good and evil, by illustrating to the audience his weaknesses, which through the guidance of the supernatural, leads to murder and mayhem and eventually madness. It is this influence of the supernatural that leads to Macbeth’s tragic persona and in turn his physical and mental destruction. Shakespeare utilises these techniques to embody in Macbeth characteristics indicative of that of a seventeenth century tragic hero.

Aristotle described the Greek image of the tragic hero as one who takes: part in a fictional account of a set of events that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.” (The Poetics)

Macbeth conforms to the image of the tragic hero by possessing a flaw and dying because if it. His flaw of being led too easily is evident through the actions of characters who influence Macbeth. Macbeth is involved in a story intertwined with evil, disorder, conflict and failure; all resulting finally in his death. Part of being a tragic hero is possessing a flaw. A flaw which will inevitably lead to self-destruction; the fall of the tragic hero. In the play, the central protagonist Macbeth, is confronted with the supernatural and the prophesy of becoming king. He cannot help but want this position, as this flaw also includes his weakness through over ambition. It is generally said that those possessing a flaw will die. The first Thane of Cawdor was a traitor, Duncan was too trusting, Banquo did not act on the knowledge he had about Macbeth’s murders, Lady Macbeth helped plot the murder of Duncan, and Macbeth destroyed the natural order and harmony of the time. All of these deaths are a result of Macbeth’s over ambition to become king, fuelled by the prophecies of the evil witches. Like Macbeth, a tragic hero has choices, a conscience of right from wrong and in the end must die, because to live would create mayhem and a feeling that his actions were justified.
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