The definition of a tragic hero, as stated on dictionary.com, is a literary character that makes an error in judgment that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy. It has been argued for years whether Macbeth from Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Macbeth, can truly be considered a tragic hero or whether he is solely a villainous tyrant. Although there are some valid arguments for the Macbeth is pure evil viewpoint, by looking at Macbeth in a holistic way you can see the tragic, the heroic, and the tragic hero within him. Macbeth is a tragic hero in every sense of the definition.
Macbeth would not be the best first choice of literary character to use as an example of a hero. He is a hero in the beginning of the play and arguably a hero in the end, it is in the middle where his heroism falters. In Act One Macbeth is showered in compliments after defeating the Thane of Cawdor, he is noted as a “brave”, “valiant cousin, and “worthy gentleman” (1.2.17-26). He is of noble status and gains the title Thane of Cawdor for his victory over Macdonwald. Macbeth is a remarkable war hero.
By the end of the play Macbeth has committed numerous awful acts that in no way can allow him to bear the title of a hero, but in Act Five he regains his former nobility. Birnam Wood moves toward Dunsinane, Macduff was prematurely ripped from his mother womb, and Macbeth is left with a choice. He can go out a coward by suicide, prisoner by surrender, or noble by fighting. He chooses to stay and fight, not because he wants more of Macduff’s blood on his conscience, Macbeth himself says, “Get thee back. Mine soul is too much charged with blood of thine already.” (5.8.6-7), but because it is in his nature to fight. He knows his time is up and if he is going down, he is going down fighting. It is not Macbeth being a bloodthirsty villain hoping to score another victim, but rather a warrior dying nobly at the hand of the person he wronged the most. This is what makes Macbeth a real hero.
The tragic side of Macbeth is a lot more promising. He betrays his King, best friend, fellow Thane, and himself for one person, the love of his life Lady Macbeth. This is Macbeth’s tragic flaw, he is so worried about what Lady Macbeth thinks of him and wants so badly to please her, because he loves her endlessly, that he is willing to do whatever she says. As Shanley points out, “She [Lady Macbeth] could sway him because she understood him and loved him, and because he loved her and depended on her love and good thoughts of him.” affirming that Lady Macbeth was able to convince Macbeth to do anything (308).
Lady Macbeth had a very powerful hold over Macbeth. Just by questioning his valor she could shift Macbeth’s whole thought process and second-guessing of the murder of Duncan (Booth, 24), and...