Shakespeare's Macbeth and Hamlet as Tragic Heroes Essay

Shakespeare's Macbeth and Hamlet as Tragic Heroes Essay

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Macbeth and Hamlet as Tragic Heroes

   William Shakespeare has written many literary works - from his sonnets to his plays, each has it's own individual characteristics.  One popular characteristic that comes from his plays is the tragic hero.  The audience can always relate to the tragic hero and the many trials he faces.  Macbeth and Hamlet are just two of Shakespeare's plays that involve the tragic hero.  Through their nobility, tragic flaws, and dignity Macbeth and Hamlet prove to be tragic heroes.


Macbeth's nobility begins with the title, "thane of Glamis" (1.3.74).  After the original "thane of Cawdor" (1.3.110) dies, Macbeth gains this title as well.  Once the witches reveal the prophecy that Macbeth would be king, Macbeth murders the king and takes the throne for himself.  This reaches the height of Macbeth's nobility.  In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is thought of as a "worthy thane"(2.3.43.), however, this shifts to nothing more than a "hell hound"(5.8.4.) in the end.  Much like Macbeth, Hamlet is very powerful and has a high status in the country.  Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark and was named "most immediate to [the] throne" (1.2.109) by Claudius.  "Lord Hamlet"(1.5.112.) is well respected by the people of Denmark.  Claudius takes this into account and does not immediately kill Hamlet when he finds out he knows the truth about his father's death.  Similar to Macbeth, Hamlet starts out in a more noble position than he ends up.  Once Hamlet begins to act crazy, others start to believe his "noble mind is here o'erthrown!" (3.1.153.).  The idea that both Hamlet and Macbeth begin with a high position and fall to their defeat leads to the development of the theme power corrupts, an important theme in...

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...s honor by exchanging forgiveness with him.  In turn, the dignity of Shakespeare's tragic heroes is reestablished in the end, however, this does not change their fate.


The characteristics of Macbeth and Hamlet lead them to become tragic heroes.  The specific detail of these characteristics make Shakespeare's tragic heroes well defined in each of his plays.  By the time of their deaths, both Macbeth and Hamlet have realized their fate and accepted the consequences like a true tragic hero.


Works Cited and Consulted:

Elliot, G.R. "Introduction: On `Macbeth' as Apex of Shakspearean Tragedy" in Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 3. Edited by Laurie Harris Gale: 1984

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Norman Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: Signet Classic, 1998.

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