Shakespeare's Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, "The best tragic plot moves the hero from prosperity to misfortune, occasioned not by depravity, but by some great mistake he makes. The plot of Macbeth follows these basic guidelines; throughout the play we follow the path of the main character as his life is torn apart as a result of the colossal mistake he makes when he kills Duncan. It is for this and the many ensuing reasons that we can say that Macbeth accurately portrays the image of a tragic hero as outlined by Aristotle.

Aristotle's first guideline for an effective tragic hero is someone that is basically good. While Macbeth does not exactly make sound moral decisions, toward the beginning of the play his conscience is fighting against his greed, and this demonstrates that he does have a basic level of goodness, although towards the end it is difficult to find it. For example, Macbeth says, "We will proceed no further in this business; he hath honored me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people..." This seems to be his conscience speaking out against the proposed killing of Duncan. It is, however, a very feeble protest, but this is probably due more to the passive tendencies he harbored before the first killing than to a lack of inner goodness. Macbeth was probably a good man in the beginning, but because he is easily influenced and as a result of his inability to make good decisions, it is easy to lose sight of that basic goodness that is undoubtedly in him.

Aristotle also states that a hero should be lifelike. Although he never states exactly what he means, it is usually interpreted to mean that a tragic hero should seem like a real human b...

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...whole mess in the beginning- in battle.

In conclusion, these numerous different factors lead me to say that Macbeth can accurately be called a 'tragic hero'. Even at the most basic level of tragedy it is true, because there is a definite feeling of pity for him. Despite the fact that he ruthlessly murdered numerous prominent individuals, including his own king, there is still a sense of pity. While the audience ultimately feels relieved that Macbeth is justly punished at the expense of his own life, there is the feeling that he was really just a good guy who made some bad choices and got pulled into something way over his head. For this reason we sympathize with him, and out of the realization that this situation could quite possibly happen to any of us, fear and pity him as well. All these factors combined prove that Macbeth really is a tragic hero.
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