The Extent To Which Macbeth Is Portrayed As A Tragic Hero In Macbeth By William Shakespeare

4007 words - 16 pages

The Extent to Which Macbeth is Portrayed as a Tragic Hero in Macbeth by William Shakespeare

A Shakespearean tragic hero according to Aristotle is usually a
prominent figure, who happens to have distinctive flaws in their
personality. Because of these flaws, and to a certain extent the
influence of external force and or an ‘evil’ antagonist the character
will experience a fall from prominence that will eventually lead to
his suffering and often to his death. In Macbeth’s case, his fatal
flaws are his impressionability, greed and most importantly his
“vaulting ambition” and hubristic character. There is no direct
antagonist in the play, but Macbeth is influenced to murder by both
the Witches and Lady Macbeth to an extent. We see the degeneration of
a valiant soldier, ‘Noble Macbeth’ to a vicious murderer, ‘this dead
butcher’. However, is Macbeth seen by the audience in a sympathetic
light? The audience could take the view that Macbeth is not
responsible for his deeds and that he was manipulated into committing
them through external forces. It could be argued unsympathetically
that the witches chose him precisely because of his flaws and through
this he acts of his free will. This essay will examine to what extent
Macbeth is truly responsible for his actions, and equally to what
extent the audience perceives him as a tragic hero.

The first scene begins with the witches making mysterious predictions
about their future meeting with Macbeth, ‘when the battles lost and
won’, immediately creating a sense of uncertainty and suggesting that
events can be interpreted in different ways. This intrigues and even
frightens the audience, possibly suggesting that the witches might
have supernatural powers. The initial presentation of Macbeth in the
following scene is of a valiant and courageous soldier and loyal
thane, as stated, ‘for brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name’. The
word ‘brave’ along with other description imply his being greatly
respected by the king; ‘O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman’, so the
audience would be expecting a figure of great loyalty to the king.
Although this trust later proves a grave misjudgement on the king’s
behalf, my personal belief is that up to this point Macbeth was indeed
a brave and valiant figure equally loyal to the king. The audience’s
first impressions of Macbeth are that he is somehow associated with
the witches. The words he mutters upon entering, ‘so foul and fair a
day I have not seen’ not only mirror those of the witches in the first
scene, ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, but they also suggest that
things are not what they seem. The audience in Shakespearean times
would have been very frightened of witches, as they were believed to
be the causes of much chaos throughout the world. Shakespeare
definitely used this to capture the interest of...

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