Macbeth - Hero Or Villain?

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‘Macbeth’ is a play by William Shakespeare that shows a protagonist going from bad to worse throughout the play. Shakespeare wrote this play, taking in mind current affairs at the time of 1603-1606. This is the time when a Scottish king, James I was given the English crown. This king was obsessed with witches, so Shakespeare brought this theme strongly into the play. It also brings the theme of treachery towards the King. This pleased King James and also pleased him about showing the line of Stuart Kings, James descendants, in Act 4, Scene 1.

The play, ‘Macbeth’ is a tragedy. The traditional specification of a tragedy requires the tragic hero to be a person who holds a high position who must oppose a conflicting force, either externally or internally(a conflicting force from his own state or another. Also, the hero should have a Hamartia, which is a tragic flaw. This will lead to the hero’s downfall, in this case, it is Macbeth’s ambition. This downfall should lead to the hero’s death in order for him to qualify as a tragic hero. The action the tragic hero does must be real and could happen at any time.

Macbeth becomes a villain when he discovers he will become King of Scotland. The traditional idea of a villain says that he or she should go by evil methods to get what they want. In the case of Macbeth, he killed Duncan to become King of Scotland. A villain is also cruel and ruthless. The villain may also be a person who commits crimes against the people and is all powerful.

We hear about Macbeth even before we meet him. This is because the witches are casting a spell that foretells that Macbeth will meet them at the heath.

In the scene with the captain, we hear that Macbeth is like a hero and is faithful to his king.
“O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman”, (I, ii)

When we first hear about Macbeth, we learn the descriptions of him are positive towards King Duncan. But, they are also gory. They tell of Macbeth being a fierce warrior and not being afraid to kill in war.
“Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops”, (I, ii).

After Macbeth meets the witches, he fully supports the evil they tell of to get what he wants. Whenever we see the witches, they appear to be pure evil, especially when they cast their spells.
“Liver of blaspheming Jew” (IV, i).

Even though the witches say Macbeth will be King of Scotland, they do not suggest that he kill Dunca...

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...could have had if he didn’t commit the murders. He still wants this, but has chosen completely the opposite.

Just before Macbeth is killed in his castle, he speaks valiantly and warrior-like, showing where his strength is. If we can forget about Macbeth’s ambition we can admire him for this.
“Why should I play the Roman fool and die
On mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes
Do better upon them.” (V, viii).

At the beginning of the play, we view Macbeth as being a hero who would defend his King and country against traitors. He also holds a lot of guilt about killing Duncan, and is commanded by his own wife to do so. When Macbeth progresses into a villain, he becomes more detached from Lady Macbeth and can make decisions without her. With this, he becomes more ruthless in his efforts to stay as the King of Scotland and people describe him as ‘This tyrant’ (V, iii) and ‘A dwarfish thief’ (V, ii). Throughout the play whenever Macbeth tries to achieve his ambition, he always blocks his good qualities in favour of a more villainous way. It is this ambition of his that leads him to become a miscreant later in the play, which leads to his undoing and eventual killing by Macduff.
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