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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero in Willian Shakespeare's Macbeth

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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero in Willian Shakespeare's Macbeth

Two and a half thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a tragedy as 'an

imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain

magnitude.' Two thousand years later, Shakespeare reincarnated this

and other classical principles in the form of his four great

tragedies; Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.

Aristotle laid down some elements which he and other classical

theorists seemed to think necessary in a tragedy. In 'Macbeth' some of

these elements have been used, some have been reworked and some have

been totally disregarded. These 'rules' which Shakespeare didn't

always think appropriate or indeed practical to use in his more

contemporary tragedies, also seem to have been lost from the common

definition of a tragedy when it is applied to anything other than

ancient dramatic works. For example, tragedies today no longer have to

be contained in a short space of time or in one location. The common

definition of a tragedy now is a play that ends with the death of the

central character, the hero; a play that considers, discusses and

dramatises universal and sometimes philosophical themes, and a play

that signals to the audience that the final outcome, always the

downfall and destruction of the hero, is inevitable. 'Macbeth' fulfils

all of these things; the central character, Macbeth, is slain at the

end; the play deals with many serious themes such as ambition,

weakness, greed and social advancement. You are always conscious of

the fact that in the end Macbeth will be killed; good will triumph

over evil, honour over ignominy. I think we realise that Macbeth's

dea...

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...itted or the self-interested pain he has caused. Macbeth does say

to Macduff 'But get thee back, my soul is too much charged With blood

of thine already', this could be taken that Macbeth doesn't want to

commit any more murders, and that maybe he regrets killing Lady

Macduff and her children. But I believe that Macbeth doesn't want to

fight with Macduff because he was told to 'beware Macduff', and that

this is an excuse. I think Macbeth maybe also wanted to reinforce and

perhaps gloat over the fact that he had killed Macduff's family while

he was in England. So while in a classical sense Macbeth fulfils the

criteria for a tragic hero, in my eyes he is neither heroic nor

tragic; only selfish, feeble and insatiable. But then I am judging him

by the standards of today, and not in the context in which he was

written.
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