Is Macbeth A Tragic Hero?

Tragedies started in ancient Greece where their main goal was to promote health of the city through purging of emotions such as dread (Aristotle). However, viewers of today watch tragedies strictly for entertainment. Shakespeare published several tragedies including one of his most well-known, The Tragedy of Macbeth. Within the concept of a tragedy is the tragic hero. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, defines a tragic hero as somebody who maintains a high position in population, embodies virtue, shows greatness but is not perfect, has a downfall that's not his own fault, has abuse that is greater than the crime, knows his mistakes in the long run, and arouses solemn emotions but eliminates the audience of these in the end (Aristotle). Based on Aristotle's theory, the main personality Macbeth in Shakespeare's play at first appears to be the tragic hero but by the finish he is not.

However, a tragic hero should never only be of high position, but he must "embody nobility and virtue" (Aristotle). Regardless of the captain's great explanations of Macbeth as a courageous warrior on the battlefield, it generally does not take long for Macbeth's true colors to show. As he departs from the battlefield, Macbeth complies with three witches who give him three prophecies, one of which is that he'll become king (1. 3. 48-50). Macbeth considers murdering Ruler Duncan so that he may gratify these prophecies. As the play progresses, Macbeth does go through with the murder of Duncan. To stop the fulfillment of his good friend Banquo's prophecy that his sons will become king, Macbeth arranges the murders of Banquo and Banquo's child (3. 1. 115-138). He even goes as significantly to kill one of his noblemen, Macduff's partner and children in fear of their disloyalty to him (4. 1. 151-154). Macbeth's potential to handle these acts to keep his throne causes him to reduce any virtuousness he might have had.

Aristotle would like his tragic hero to be great but not perfect. The imperfections will allow the audience to relate with the hero. Macbeth is a great, courageous warrior and thane. His ambition to wipe out King Duncan to be remembered as ruler himself and the murders of his friends and innocent women and children show that he's far from perfect. With a flaw Macbeth is helped bring down from his pedestal to a position that the audience can relate to.

Macbeth's ambition to murder Duncan eventually leads to his downfall. After getting rid of Duncan, he starts eradicating anyone he feels may jeopardize his kingship. By doing so, he makes enemies, person who eventually murders him in struggle. Together with the witches meddling in Macbeth's life it is doubtful whether he's to blame for his own downfall or if he is under some spell; however, it is validated that Macbeth is in charge of his own actions when Hecate instructs her witches "all you have done hath been but for a wayward boy" (3. 5. 10-11). When you are responsible for his own downfall, Macbeth meets another of Aristotle's characteristics of an tragic hero.

After all he has done, Macbeth is finally removed in fight by a guy whose family he has completely destroyed. Corresponding to Aristotle, a tragic hero's abuse should become more than is deserved; however, Macbeth's consequence is deserved and needed for there could be no other end to his ruthless assault except assault itself. Macbeth says he has gone up to now that he cannot go back, that he'll never stop (3. 4. 136-137). The only path to restore tranquility to the kingdom is to eliminate Macbeth.

Amidst all this Macbeth never gains any self-awareness or knowledge. A tragic hero should not suffer a whole loss, yet Macbeth remains equally arrogant as he always was. As Macbeth meets his murderer he taunts him with the witches prophecies until he realizes Macduff is above the prophecies and able to defeat him. Yet, Macbeth still refuses "to kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet" (5. 8. 29). Macbeth is so caught up in retaining his position he cannot start to see the destruction he has triggered and would prefer to pass away than step down for the betterment of his people.

As the play comes to a close, Aristotle states the audience should be purged of any unsafe thoughts such as pity or dread evoked throughout the play. Macbeth's awful reign does blend up pity and fear in the audience. It brings about pity for Macbeth's people because they need to deal with Macbeth's brutal, ruthless violence. It arouses dread in the audience that one day such a ruler could one day be over them. However, in the end those emotions have died when Macbeth is murdered and the rightful heir is restored to the throne. You can only trust things will get better from here.

At first look Macbeth appears to be the tragic hero of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth. Macbeth does hold a high position in world as a courageous warrior and thane. He seems great but it is soon noticeable that he's not perfect since he possesses the capability to murder his king and anyone else who gets in his way. His downfall is his own mistake and his tragic end purges the audience of any negative thoughts once the rightful heir is restored to the throne. Despite these characteristics, there are other features of a tragic hero in Aristotle's theory which Macbeth does not possess. Taking care of in which he falls brief is Aristotle's proven fact that the hero's abuse should "exceed the crime" (Aristotle). Macbeth's punishment, however, is deserved of his crime since there can be no other end. Aristotle also declares a tragic hero should not face a full reduction; however, Macbeth never discovers anything from his flaws. The hero should also be virtuous, but Macbeth does not possess any virtues. He murders his friends and innocent women and children all to keep his throne. For your character to be looked at an Aristotelian tragic hero he must possess all characteristics of Aristotle's theory. Macbeth offers a few of these characteristics however, not others; therefore, he can't be considered the Aristotelian tragic hero of Shakespeare's play.

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