In his acclaimed dramatic tragedy, The tragedy of Macbeth, renowned playwright William Shakespeare masterfully unfolds the bloody and tragic tale of the great warrior Macbeth, from his rise to the throne of Scotland to his eventual demise. Written in 1606, the play is set in 11th-Century Scotland. Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from three witches foretelling that he will become King. To ensure that the prophecy holds true, Macbeth aided by his cunning and cruel wife devise a plot to murder the current king, King Duncan, and seize the throne. This plot forces Macbeth on a tragic course of murder and cruelness that leads to his eventual death. On a surface level, it would appear that Macbeth, on the basis of his actions alone, should be viewed as an evil or immoral character, very much the antagonist of the story. Yet, the audience is meant to identify and even sympathize with Macbeth in the same manner as they would a protagonist. It is only upon examining the character development of the anti-hero Macbeth as a whole, that the audience is able derive the complexity of his true nature and view him as Shakespeare intended-- a flawed but sympathetic protagonist.
Before we can delve into what makes Macbeth a sympathetic character and not simply a villain, one must first define his role and purpose in the play. In order to do this, one must have a firm understanding of both the terms “antihero” and “tragic hero” in classic literature. An antihero, as defined in Oxford Dictionary, is “a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.” Though similar in nature but not exactly identical, a “tragic hero” is defined as “a literary character who makes an error of judgm...
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...pired and he would not have met his demise in such a fashion. Following this Macbeth knowing that he will die at the hands of Macduff, who is “not of women born,” regains a bit of the former brave warrior he was and fights to the death, thus completing the catharsis and atoning for his errors (Shakespeare).
Furthermore, the full presentation of the character in Macbeth as a tragic hero makes the audience react more sympathetically than it otherwise might if it merely judged his actions. Even though Macbeth committed acts of depravity to maintain power, his character is still to be considered tragic and to be sympathized with when one considers the fact that he was once a noble man with a fatal flaw; he was able to show remorse; he was influenced by outside forces such as his wife and fate; and in the end he was able die with honor as a glimer of the hero he once was.
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