Shakespeare's Macbeth - Villain, Tragic Hero, or Simply Ambitious ? Essay

Shakespeare's Macbeth - Villain, Tragic Hero, or Simply Ambitious ? Essay

Length: 2068 words (5.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Macbeth:  Villain, Tragic Hero, or Simply Ambitious ?

    The play MacBeth conforms to the definition of a tragedy: “A play in verse or in prose dealing with tragic events, usually ending in the downfall of the protagonist”1.  However, many sections of MacBeth do not describe a tragic hero, but merely a villain or a lord who is overly ambitious and pays the consequences for his actions.  MacBeth is a tragedy that challenges the very foundations of that genre, set by Aristotle and Plato in the third century B.C. These foundations had been part of the text Poetics, in which Aristotle listed the six requirements of dramatic tragedy, one of which is the inclusion of a tragic hero, a fundamental that has been followed by many tragedians including Sophocles, Aeschylus, O’Neill and Shakespeare himself in his other tragedies.


MacBeth however is different from these tragedies in that the protagonist is not clearly defined as a tragic hero, the reader may view glimpses of a hero in MacBeth but not in substantial amounts, so this is neither completely validated nor revoked by Shakespeare. In order to come to a conclusion the reader must take into consideration not only MacBeth’s intentions but those of the people around him as well, such as Lady MacBeth and the three Weird Sisters, both of whom can be deemed to have influenced his actions in some way.


MacBeth’s downfall and ultimate fate begins with his decision to murder King Duncan. Yet, from what the reader has seen of MacBeth so far, this action seems highly out of character.  He is initially portrayed a loyal warrior who has a wife and his own castle, and yet he still chooses to murder Duncan.  The apparent reason for this is ambition, we are told this by Ma...

... middle of paper ...

...d, not once was he forced into doing anything that was not desired by him. On many occasions, the reader is tempted to see MacBeth as a simple villain and yet his resolve to carry out what he had already started influences them to rethink their opinion on his status as a villain. This remarkable blend of a tragic hero, a villain and a man beset with sheer determination is one that allows MacBeth to stand out arguably as one of the finest morality plays ever written.


1. Concise Oxford dictionary



English 366: Studies in Shakespeare Introduction to Macbeth

Barnet, Sylvan. Shakespeare’s MacBeth, Signet Classic 1987

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a Play for our Time

Aristotle, Poetics

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Macbeth, By William Shakespeare Essay

- “So foul and fair a day I have not seen”( 1.3.40). In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis who comes across three witches upon leaving a battlefield who prophesize that he will become the Thane of Cawdor and King of all. As his ambition grows, along with the aid of several outside forces including his wife and the witches, he kills his king which sets him on a path from which there is no return. The witches also prophesied that his friend, Banquo, will have children who become kings....   [tags: Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Tragic hero]

Powerful Essays
1027 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on The Manipulative Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth

- Lady Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous and frightening female characters. As she is Macbeth’s wife, her role is significant in his rise and fall from royalty. She is Macbeth’s other half. During Shakespearean times, women were regarded as weak insignificant beings that were there to give birth and look beautiful. They were not thought to be as intelligent or equal to men. Though in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the highest influence in Macbeth’s life. Her role was so large; in fact, that she uses her position to gain power, stay strong enough to support her unstable Lord, and fails miserably while their relationship falls apart....   [tags: Macbeth Essays]

Free Essays
1431 words (4.1 pages)

Macbeth And Lady Macbeth By William Shakespeare Essay

- A main aspect that contributes to the complexity, captivating quality, and tragic nature of the iconic play, Macbeth is that it walks a tight-rope between fantasy and reality. A primary theme throughout the play is control. How much authority does the protagonist Macbeth truly have over his life. As Macbeth slowly morphs into the villain he is at the conclusion of the play, the audience can observe a direct correlation to the loss of his psychological stability. The mental episodes described throughout the play in both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth truly signify the debilitating power of guilt over the human mind....   [tags: Macbeth, Mind, Macbeth, Pontius Pilate]

Powerful Essays
1218 words (3.5 pages)

The Real Macbeth - Shakespeare 's Macbeth Essay

- The Real Macbeth vs. The Shakespearean Character Macbeth William Shakespeare is the most performed and read playwright whose works captured the complete range of human emotions. He wrote various types of plays including comedies, romances, tragedies, and tragicomedies. Macbeth, is one of his most famous tragedies he wrote between 1599-1606. The dramatic alterations made by Shakespeare bear little resemblance to the facts, leading us to conclude to three main purposes. The first being the dramatic....   [tags: Macbeth, Malcolm III of Scotland]

Powerful Essays
1477 words (4.2 pages)

Lady Macbeth By William Shakespeare Essay

- I will examine to what extent Lady Mcbeth is to blame for her husband 's downfall. I believe she is the one to blame for Mcbeths downfall .Lady Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous and scary female characters. Her role was so large, in fact, that she uses her position to gain power, stay strong enough to support her unstable Lord, and fails horribly while their relationship falls apart. Everything about Lady Macbeth is enough to create the perfect villain because of her ability to manipulate everyone around her....   [tags: Macbeth, King Duncan, Duncan I of Scotland]

Powerful Essays
1154 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Macbeth, By William Shakespeare

- Good Triumphs all Evil There is a light in every darkness. People choose to acknowledge the faults, heartbreaks, and wrong-doings of the world but not let it discourage them. Instead, there is the choice to believe that there is at least a little good in every dark soul which is the case in William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. The tragic hero Macbeth makes many mistakes and entangles himself into a web of deceit, misconduct and darkness lead by manipulation and ambition. The self-created antagonistic character, Macbeth, shines elements of his integrity through his nobility, trusting nature, and moral conscience throughout the chaos....   [tags: Macbeth, Duncan I of Scotland, King Duncan]

Powerful Essays
1011 words (2.9 pages)

Macbeth: A Very Complex Character Essay

- Macbeth is a very complex character whom reflects man's thirst for power through the drastic changes of his personality; thus being one of the slightest reasons in which make this intriguing character, greatest of all Shakespearean’s well-known works. At the beginning of the play Macbeth is notable as a brave soldier and is rewarded as being Thane of Glamis. The attributions of Macbeth at the beginning of the play may be wise, thoughtful, patient and noble. Soon after he achieves the title Thane of Cawdor as predicted by the three witches; whom drive Macbeth’s ambition to murder King Duncan- due to the fulfilment of the witches’ first prophecy, Macbeth is foolish enough to commit to treason...   [tags: Macbeth Essays]

Powerful Essays
1982 words (5.7 pages)

Macbeth: Hero or Villain Essay

- Macbeth: Hero or Villain In this essay, I will be divulging into 'Macbeth' written by William Shakespeare in 1603, to try and answer the question 'Was Macbeth a true hero or villain in the play?'. Macbeth is a play of villainy, murder, deceit and oftenly described as a 'play fit for a king'. In my personal opinion, the evidence from Shakespeare's original text and Roland Polanski's video version strongly suggests that Macbeth was a true villain rather than a hero. An example of his villainy is the fact that Macbeth assassinated his King to thrust himself to power in Act 1, Scene 2....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
2605 words (7.4 pages)

A Shakesperean Tragic Hero - Macbeth Essay

- A Shakespearean tragic hero may be defined as “an exceptional being of high degree” who contributes to his own degeneration and illustrates a personality flaw. The character of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is in all ways the perfect example of a tragic hero. His greatness and bravery in battle for his country ultimately leads him to be a great thane and eventually a powerful king, making his actions have a significant impact on a country. Macbeth’s ambition on becoming a king leads to an obsession to remain in his current position....   [tags: William Shakespeare Macbeth Hero]

Powerful Essays
1125 words (3.2 pages)

evilmac Macbeth's Profound Evil Essay

- Macbeth's Profound Evil        When the audience experiences Macbeth by William Shakespeare, it is subjected to a heavy dose of evil in the form of intent and actions by the witches, by Lady Macbeth and by Macbeth.   L.C. Knights in the essay "Macbeth" specifies the particular species of evil present within the play:   Macbeth defines a particular kind of evil - the evil that results from a lust for power. The defining, as in all the tragedies, is in strictly poetic and dramatic terms. It is certainly not an abstract formulation, but lies rather in the drawing out of necessary consequences and implications of that lust both in the external and the spiritual worlds....   [tags: Macbeth essays]

Powerful Essays
1965 words (5.6 pages)