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Macbeth:A Tragic Hero? Essay, Research Paper

Throughout Shakespeare?s Scottish play, the main character Macbeth is portrayed

as both a hero and an enemy. Through a series of conflicts and situations, Macbeth?s

image is changed from a hero to an enemy and due to his downfall he is established as a

tragic hero. Pathos is created for Macbeth as he is faced with these conflicts,

consequently in the end Macbeth is looked upon as a tragic hero.

First of all, in order to say that someone is a tragic hero, you must know what a

tragic hero is. A tragic hero is a person (or character in this case) that is an essentially

good person of noble birth who is led to their downfall or death by a flaw in their

character, an error in their judgement, pressures from external circumstances, and/or an

intervention of the natural and supernatural. In the play, ?Macbeth? all of these criteria

are met, which leads the reader to associate Macbeth as a tragic hero.

In the beginning of the play Shakespeare describes Macbeth as a hero as he wins

the battle for his nation and is very loyal to his king, however he has a great ambition to

be king. Macbeth imagines himself murdering his king but rejects the thought and thinks

to himself how ridiculous it is as he says,

?…and to be King / Stands not within the prospect of belief…(1.3. 78-79).?

Macbeth?s good nature was soon defeated by his ambition as king Duncan gave his

son Malcolm the title of, the Prince of Cumberland. When the king came to visit

Macbeth, Macbeth controlled his ambition for a short time and did not follow through

with the murdering of Duncan. Lady Macbeth calls Macbeth a coward and even though

Macbeth knows that killing Duncan is unlawful, Lady Macbeth convinced him that

murder is the easiest way to fulfill his ambition to become king. Macbeth agrees although

he is scared that his nerve will fail as shown in the play,

?If it were done when ?tis done, then ?twere well / It were done quickly

(1.7. 1-2).?

After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is overcome by evil. He was wrong to have

killed Duncan and feels bad at what he has done and wishes that he had not committed

the murder as he says,

?Had I but died an hour before this chance, / I had lived a blessed time; for

from this instant / There?s nothing serious in mortality; / All is but toys;

renown and grace is dead; / The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees / Is

left this vault to brag of (2.3. 101-106).?

Macbeth realizes that the assassination was not perfect and he has to deal with

many potential conflicts. He thinks that everyone including his loyal friend Banquo is

onto him and the murder. Macbeth tries not to look agitated by this and hires murderers

to take out Banquo, and Banquo?s only son Fleance. Macbeth wanted to ensure his

position on the throne because Fleance was predicted to be a future king in Scotland.

After these recent murders, Macbeth doesn?t need to be influenced by anyone and

takes matters into his own hands, making his own decisions. Macbeth has veered away

from his wife because of his own plans. He is relying only on the prophecies made by the

witches about how he was to be king and how he is invincible to any man born of a


Throughout the whole of this play, Macbeth is influenced greatly by supernatural

forces. The three witches or weird sisters influence Macbeth into realizing his ambition

to become king and from thence on he believes their prophecies, and the apparitions.

Macbeth believes that he is invincible because of the second apparition that said any man

born of a women can not harm Macbeth,

?What?s the boy Malcolm? / Was he not born of woman? The spirits that

know / All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus: / ?Fear not,

Macbeth. No man that?s born of woman / Shall e?er have power upon

thee.? Then fly, false thanes, / And mingle with the English epicures. / The

mind I sway by and the heart I bear / Shall never sag with doubt nor shake

with fear (5.3. 3-10).?

Macbeth does not realize that the witches are not there to help him but more so to

fulfill their devilish needs.

Near the end of the play, Macbeth hires murderers to kill the family of Macduff

while Macduff is out of his castle. The murderers complete their task and when Macduff

hears of this he is determined to kill Macbeth. This part of the play is one of the best

examples of nemesis in the entire play and leads to the tragic death of Macbeth. Macduff

and Malcolm join forces to fight against Macbeth. The soldiers took branches and trees

to use as camouflage and Macbeth was positive it was Birnam Wood. This was the third

apparition that said,

?Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam Wood to high

Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him (4.1. 104-106).?

Macbeth now realized that he was no longer safe because he saw that Birnam

Wood was approaching him, and Macduff was not naturally born of a woman. Macbeth

and Macduff fight and in the end Macduff decapitates Macbeth and ends Macbeth?s evil

rule. Malcolm the son of the former king Duncan is appointed to the king of Scotland and

will hopefully have a stronger rule over Scotland than the two previous kings.

Throughout the development of this tragedy, Macbeth has turned from a brave,

courageous, and loyal man to an evil person. His ambition, his belief of the witches

prophecies, the pressure from the witches, and his influences from Lady Macbeth brought

him to the tragic end of his life, and also the resulting loss of many other people?s lives.

This tragic end of the life of an essentially good man leads us to say that Macbeth is a

tragic hero.


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