The Extent to Which Macbeth is Portrayed as a Tragic Hero in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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The Extent to Which Macbeth is Portrayed as a Tragic Hero in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

A Shakespearean tragic hero according to Aristotle is usually a

prominent figure, who happens to have distinctive flaws in their

personality. Because of these flaws, and to a certain extent the

influence of external force and or an ‘evil’ antagonist the character

will experience a fall from prominence that will eventually lead to

his suffering and often to his death. In Macbeth’s case, his fatal

flaws are his impressionability, greed and most importantly his

“vaulting ambition” and hubristic character. There is no direct

antagonist in the play, but Macbeth is influenced to murder by both

the Witches and Lady Macbeth to an extent. We see the degeneration of

a valiant soldier, ‘Noble Macbeth’ to a vicious murderer, ‘this dead

butcher’. However, is Macbeth seen by the audience in a sympathetic

light? The audience could take the view that Macbeth is not

responsible for his deeds and that he was manipulated into committing

them through external forces. It could be argued unsympathetically

that the witches chose him precisely because of his flaws and through

this he acts of his free will. This essay will examine to what extent

Macbeth is truly responsible for his actions, and equally to what

extent the audience perceives him as a tragic hero.

The first scene begins with the witches making mysterious predictions

about their future meeting with Macbeth, ‘when the battles lost and

won’, immediately creating a sense of uncertainty and suggesting that

events can be interpreted in different ways. This intrigues and even

frightens the audience, possibly...

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...rders Duncan, but I feel most

importantly, that it is only due to outside forces that firstly the

prospect of murder arises, and secondly he ends up committing it in

the last, and continuing in the way he did. After the first murder,

Macbeth acts of his own accord and loses, to an extent, the audiences’

sympathy. Macbeth appears to have suffered to a large extent, after

his effective fall from grace. This suffering is portrayed through his

constant anguish and terrible guilt and eternal battle with his

conscience. This, in addition to the final twist in the play seems, in

a sense to be the God’s retribution. This nemesis – the betrayal of

Macbeth’s trust and predictions, culminating in his eventual death,

brings the tale to a conclusion as a tragedy. It equally demonstrates

the extent to which Macbeth is a tragic hero.
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