In Macbeth, the character of Macbeth has a. firm and correct grasp of self-knowledge, and a well developed concept of the universe and his place in it. He willfully disregards his own moral thoughts and institutions. According to Bernard McElroy, "more than any other Shakespearean hero, he [Macbeth] has a perfectly clear concept of who he is and where he stands --- and it is exactly this perception that torments and spiritually destroys him"(330). Macbeth is strongly impelled to evil but he also abhors evil. It is this that causes Macbeth to abhor himself. The play explores the tensions between Macbeth's proneness to evil and his abhorrence to evil. Macbeth is a tragic hero because he becomes caught in tensions between his criminal actions and the reaction of his conscience. Had Macbeth committed the deeds without any remorse, he would have been simply an evil monster, without any hope. But it is his conscience about evil that makes him tragic. Through Macbeth's actions, Shakespeare is able to depict the nature of evil as being: lusftul, deceptive, tyrannical, and disruptive to family.
To begin, Macbeth himself stands as a symbol for Satan's sin of ambition. Like Satan, Macbeth's insatiable lust for power and ambition drives him to commit evil. Although Macbeth's ambitiousness is not in itself evil: "His very strong social sense, worldly but valuable, together with that gift of imaginative expression whereby he far outshines all the others, makes him naturally and rightly desirous of winning `Golden Opinions from all sorts of people' [I.vii.33]" (Elliot, 288). However, Shakespeare asserts that Macbeth knows his place in nature, and is overly ambitious according to Calvinist doctrine ...
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...d devoured by it.
Bethell, S.L. "Shakespeare's Imagery: The Diabolic Images in Othello" in Shakespeare Survey: Volume 5. Edited by Allardyce Nicoll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952)
Elliot, G.R. "Introduction: On `Macbeth' as Apex of Shakspearean Tragedy" in Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 3. Edited by Laurie Harris (Gale: 1984)
McElroy, Bernard, "`Macbeth': The torture of the Mind" in Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 3. Edited by Laurie Harris (Gale:1984)
Ribner, Irving. "Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action," in Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 3. Edited by Laurie Harris (Gale:1984)
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Edited by Norman Sanders. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)
----, Macbeth, World Literary Heritage, Volume 1.0 (California: Softbit, Inc. MS- DOS / MS - Windows 3.1, CD ROM)
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