Macbeth and Hamlet as Tragic Heroes
William Shakespeare has written many literary works - from his sonnets to his plays, each has it's own individual characteristics. One popular characteristic that comes from his plays is the tragic hero. The audience can always relate to the tragic hero and the many trials he faces. Macbeth and Hamlet are just two of Shakespeare's plays that involve the tragic hero. Through their nobility, tragic flaws, and dignity Macbeth and Hamlet prove to be tragic heroes.
Macbeth's nobility begins with the title, "thane of Glamis" (1.3.74). After the original "thane of Cawdor" (1.3.110) dies, Macbeth gains this title as well. Once the witches reveal the prophecy that Macbeth would be king, Macbeth murders the king and takes the throne for himself. This reaches the height of Macbeth's nobility. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is thought of as a "worthy thane"(2.3.43.), however, this shifts to nothing more than a "hell hound"(5.8.4.) in the end. Much like Macbeth, Hamlet is very powerful and has a high status in the country. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark and was named "most immediate to [the] throne" (1.2.109) by Claudius. "Lord Hamlet"(1.5.112.) is well respected by the people of Denmark. Claudius takes this into account and does not immediately kill Hamlet when he finds out he knows the truth about his father's death. Similar to Macbeth, Hamlet starts out in a more noble position than he ends up. Once Hamlet begins to act crazy, others start to believe his "noble mind is here o'erthrown!" (3.1.153.). The idea that both Hamlet and Macbeth begin with a high position and fall to their defeat leads to the development of the theme power corrupts, an important theme in both plays. After understanding the nobility in these two characters, the tragic hero in both Macbeth and Hamlet is continued with their tragic flaws.
Every tragic hero has a tragic flaw. Macbeth's tragic flaw is his ambition. There is no other reason for the evil he does besides his "vaulting ambition, which o'er leaps itself" (1.7.27). Macbeth has such a strong desire to be king; he would kill his friends and loved ones to succeed in his task. Macbeth would not have been inclined to take action in murdering without the help of the witches and Lady Macbeth. These women push Macbeth to the idea of becoming king, but because of his tragic flaw, ambition, Macbeth proceeds with the plan on his own, which leads to corruption. Hamlet's tragic flaw is his indecisiveness. He promises his father he will "sweep to [his] revenge" (1.5.31) "with wings...