Macbeth as a Tragic Hero in William Shakespeare's Play

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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero in William Shakespeare's Play

The play ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare charts the rise and fall of

the Scottish general Macbeth, through a tale of treachery, deceit and

death. First performed in 1606 ‘Macbeth’ is inspired by a story of the

Scottish monarchy. A tragic hero is one who at the outset is not

wholly good or bad but has a character fault that causes them to make

tragic mistakes resulting in their eventual downfall. ‘Macbeth’ is a

renaissance tragedy and we can see that Macbeth’s decisions to move

away from war hero to noble aggressor as an example of him being an

archetypal renaissance tragic hero. We can define ‘Macbeth’ as a

renaissance tragedy because Macbeth determined his own fate by

deciding to sin, for example, killing King Duncan. Macbeth also had a

tragic flaw or hamartia, which was his vaulting and uncontrollable

ambition. To the Greeks hamartia resulted from ignorance, something

the hero could not control. Macbeth was responsible for his own fate

and was not a victim of a cruel trick played on him by the gods. This

alone proves that Macbeth is a renaissance, not a Greek tragedy.

Throughout the play there are a number of ongoing themes which include

how the desire to have power and unchecked ambition can make people

corrupt, for example Macbeth’s ambition for kingship overpowers his

principles and his friendships for King Duncan and Banquo. The roles

of men and women in this play are very well defined even if the roles

are not traditionally Shakespearean “When you durst do it, then you

were the man. And to be more than what you were, you would Be so much

more the man.” Act 1, Scene 7, ...

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the crime is punished by their own deaths. Another symbol used in the

play is the raven symbolizing ill omen. The raven is often referred

to as a storm crow since it tells of an upcoming storm. It served the

same purpose in the play being seen before tense parts. Another

symbol in the play is sleep. Sleep represents innocence, because when

one is asleep one is very vulnerable to attack and one can also not

commit any crimes when asleep and those who cannot have sleep are so

because they have lost their innocence and are overcome with guilt and


In conclusion I believe that Macbeth fits the role of renaissance

tragic hero. I think this because he is responsible for his own

downfall and this downfall comes about because of a tragic flaw.

Macbeth’s tragic flaw was his vaulting ambition to become king.

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