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Macbeth's Complex Character Essay

1136 words - 5 pages

In the comprehensive history of philosophy, Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder, beliefs of three well known Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, are discussed. According to the book, Plato’s philosophy consisted of the idea that all beings were formed from a universal “cookie cutter” which resembles its perfect form derived from a higher state of being. Aristotle, Plato’s most famous pupil, did not accept his teacher’s philosophy. Instead, Aristotle claimed that each being stands alone in this world. According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is a person of high and noble standing whose downfall is caused by some moral weakness or flaw. Using Aristotle’s philosophy, we can then conclude that a tragic hero can stand alone in the world and undergo changes that could alter the term “tragic hero” and its validity. An ideal example of this is William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. In “The Scottish Play,” Macbeth’s heroic qualities are clear at the beginning of the play. As the play progresses, Macbeth shows some moral weakness that leads to his downfall. Eventually, Macbeth renounces all of his heroic qualities, eventually becoming tyrant. All of these events show that Macbeth undergoes multiple personal changes that keep him from being labeled as a tragic hero.
The play Macbeth begins with the main character Macbeth being portrayed in a positive light. In the beginning, Macbeth is seen as a brave Scottish general who fights both valiantly and courageously. At the time, Macbeth also held the honorable position of Thane of Glamis. Early in the first act, Macbeth contributes to the defeat of the Irish rebels challenging Scotland. Macbeth manages to defeat the traitorous Macdonald, winning the glory for Scotland and further strengthening his own personal glory. In the second scene of act I, King Duncan is seen having a conversation with an anonymous injured captain who witnessed Macbeth in battle. In the exchange, Macbeth is described as a brave and ruthless leader. Duncan then proclaims, “So well thy words become thee as thy wounds: They smack of honor both. Go, get him surgeons,” (lines 47-49). The most important aspect of this quote is Duncan’s approval for Macbeth. At this point and time, things are looking advantageous for Macbeth. He is about to be recognized as a war hero, he has King Duncan’s approval, and it is revealed in the play that he is about to receive the position of Thane of Cawdor. Each one of these aspects describes the archetypical hero. Unfortunately for Macbeth, he is ignorant of what is to come, which will change him and keep him from being labeled as a tragic hero.
Despite Macbeth starting in a positive light, as the play progresses, he starts to show elements of being a tragic hero. These tragic qualities are enabled and facilitated through his wife, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth was fully aware of prophesies made by the “wyrd” sisters who claimed that Macbeth would not only become the Thane of Cawdor, but he would also ...

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