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To What Extent Does Macbeth Fulfil

The Demands of A Tragic Hero?

To be able to answer this question fully and profoundly we must first be able to accurately understand and be able to describe what is meant by a tragic hero. The classical idea of a tragic hero was first introduced by the ancient Greeks. The earliest known example of this was from Aristotle’s ‘Poeticus’. There are many essential points that are needed to be fulfilled to allow a character to be a true tragic hero. I will now try to explain the criteria needed.

The first and most important is that the character must be important enough for whatever happens to him to make a difference to the whole world. This means that you or I could not possibly be a tragic hero, as the consequences to the plot of our story would not influence the world in any way. However, in the story of Macbeth the tragic hero, i.e. Macbeth, is important enough to make a difference to the rest of the world.

The second point is that the character must be good-natured, very brave, has a good reputation and is well respected. As well as this however the tragic hero must have one tragic flaw with in him, in his personality or in his temperament. The tragic flaw cannot be from the outside it must be contained with in him. For if he did not have a tragic flaw he would merely be an ordinary, run of the mill hero. This tragic flaw could be almost anything for example it could be that the character was too greedy that then led him to want too much. Alternatively, it could be that the person was too gullible and so was easily drawn into traps.

The third essential point is that the tragic hero’s position or rise to power in Macbeth’s case must show a decline in any period. Lastly, the tragic hero must be able to redeem himself despite the flaw in himself and that in the end you must feel sympathy towards the character at the end of the play or story.

However, before examining whether Macbeth fills all the above criteria, let us take an example of one of the original tragic heroes. This is a story about a young boy named Oedipus. Many people wrote about Oedipus, one such writer is Iscalla. When Oedipus was born his mother and father gave him up to be adopted. Later when Oedipus was growing up, he asked his adopted parents who his mother and father really were. When the said that they were a King and Queen in a far off country Oedipus decided to look for them. He started by crossing the desert but when he met a man in the desert he got in a fight with him and killed the man. He finally reached a new country and found out that their King had been tragically killed. Oedipus went to the queen and she immediately asked Oedipus to marry her, for he was young and handsome. Later Oedipus found out that the woman he had married was his mother and the man that he had killed was his father.

Oedipus had a tragic flaw and that was that he was not content with who he was and that he wanted to find the truth. He also had a rise to power, as he eventually became King. While he was King, he would have been well respected as well. He also redeemed himself by immediately resigning from the throne.

Next, we will look at whether or not Macbeth fulfils these key points.

With regard to the first point Macbeth is adequately able to fulfil this point, as he is to rise to power in the following steps. Firstly he will be the Thane of Glamis, then he will be the Thane of Cawdor and finally will reach the ultimate position and become the king of Scotland. Therefore, whatever happens to Macbeth will certainly influence at least a nation, as he is the most important person in Scotland.

Macbeth also fulfils the second point – of being brave, good-natured, with a good reputation, as we know from the text that he was once a brave and fearless soldier

” For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name) disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel, which smok’d with bloody execution ”

{Captain, Act 1, Scene 2, Line 18}

This shows that Macbeth also had a good reputation and that he was well respected, as the Captain believed that Macbeth deserved the name ‘Brave Macbeth’.

We will leave the next point, as I will be able to explain it in greater depth once we have gathered all the other pieces of information. In effect the next point that Macbeth must fulfil is that his position or rise to power must show a decline. This is again true as from Act 1-3 Macbeth progress through the ranks. First as the Thane of Glamis, next he becomes the Thane of Cawdor and finally, even if it did come of ill fate, Macbeth becomes King of Scotland. However, from Act 3-5 his power does decline as he then is found out to have killed the previous King, Duncan, and then there are three more prophecies from the witches that ultimately lead to his death. This is summarised by two pieces of text, one from the beginning and one from the end. These are “Bellona’s bridegroom”{Act 1, Scene 2, Line 55} And “This dead butcher” {Act 5, Scene 6, Line 108} This shows Macbeth was well regarded at the start of the play and finally turned into someone that everybody hates.

The next criteria that Macbeth must fulfil if he is to be a true tragic hero is that of redemption. Macbeth must now redeem himself despite the flaw. Macbeth does this by acknowledging his faults and fittingly Macduff, who was suspicious of Macbeth since the outset, kills him at the battle near the castle.

The next point that Macbeth should fulfil is that you must fell some sympathy towards him. Arguably this could depend on your own views yet I felt some sympathy towards him as it was his ambition and his wife, Lady Macbeth, that made him perform such horrific deeds. Even if you yourself do not feel any sympathy towards Macbeth when he is slain by Macduff he can still be a tragic hero.

All the above points are now resting on one other to determine whether or not Macbeth is a true tragic hero. The point is whether Macbeth has a tragic flaw within him, in his temperament. Macbeth in fact does have one tragic flaw and that is that he is very ambitious. This itself may not be a bad thing. However, when coupled with the witches prophecies and Lady Macbeth helping him along the way, Macbeth becomes very easily drawn in the direction that he wishes to go. As he wanted to become King of Scotland and the witches told him that he would be then that was the point when Macbeth was not going to be deviated along another path. Ironically, he did become King of Scotland but in a very ill fated way that ultimately led to his death.

With all the information now gathered, it is possible to draw conclusions. Macbeth does fulfil the demands of a tragic hero in my opinion. Even if he doesn’t fulfil one of the above criteria, that of feeling sympathy towards him, as this point is very subjective and depends on one’s own views and opinions. Shakespeare created Macbeth as a tragic hero and this is known this from the outset as the title suggests. However, even if the play was not called the ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ he still manages to fill all the necessary criteria of a tragic hero.

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