Macbeth: An Aristotelian Tragic Hero

In the Poetics, Aristotle devises certain requirements for the principal character of an tragedy and these have been generally accepted as the standard for the character of the tragic protagonist. Corresponding to Aristotle, the tragic hero should not be perfect, but he should be good and like us to be able to gain our sympathy. He has a fatal flaw or hamartia that leads him to an error of judgement, and then takes place a reversal where he experiences popularity of the events that resulted in his downfall. The type of the tragic hero also needs to be able to cause the catharsis, where in fact the audience seems pity and fear for the hero. Shakespeare's tragic heroes mostly conform to the basic requirements of the Aristotelian dictum but sometimes he imbues his heroes with certain characteristics because of which they become unique in their own ways. Macbeth is one such example of a hero whose identity shows hook deviation from that of the perfect tragic hero, while essentially conforming to the Aristotelian guidelines.

David S. Kastan highlights that it's probable that Shakespeare had been either unaware of or eager to dismiss Aristotle's theorisation on tragedy (Kastan 5). So Shakespeare might not have adopted the Aristotelian dictum in delineating his tragic heroes. Yet, Shakespearean tragic heroes seem to be to almost entirely comply with the Aristotelian notion. A. C. Bradley says regarding Shakespeare's heroes: 'They are exceptional beings. his actions or sufferings are of a unique kind. But this isn't all. His character also is exceptional, and generally boosts him in some respect much above the average level of mankind. ' (Bradley 13). Macbeth is a personality built on the grand range: he is a person of high level in whom "desire, enthusiasm, or willattainsa awful force. " (Bradley 13). Macbeth's hamartia is his inordinate ambition which leads him to deliberately embrace the path of evil. Within this context Bradley reviews: 'It is a fatal present, but it bears with it some greatness; so when there is joined up with to it nobility of mind, or genius, or tremendous poweritstirs not only sympathy and pity, but admiration, terror, and awe. ' (Bradley 14). Thus, by the end of the play, Macbeth emerges as the hero whose tragedy evokes pity and fear rather than repulsion despite all the bad that he has dedicated knowingly.

Shakespeare endows Macbeth with features which raise his villain-hero to the heights of your tragic hero. Kenneth Muir in his benefits to the play Macbeth says that in order to show the way the hero comes to be damned, Shakespeare possessed to describe and create the good which Macbeth possessed sacrificed (Shakespeare 43). Macbeth shows an inclination towards the evil as also a wish to reform: his is not a smooth change into criminality. Macbeth is not innately bad, and Shakespeare shows the moral turmoil within the hero through Macbeth's vibrant poetic imagination. In this context Harold C. Goddard says: 'When a man of creativitystoops to criminal offenses, instantly transcendental power rush to the picture as if fearful lest this one deed change the moral center of gravity of the universe' (Goddard 16). Hence, Macbeth imagines

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood

Clean from my side? No, this my hand will rather

The multitudinous seas incarnadine,

Making the inexperienced one red. (II, ii, 59-62)

Shakespeare's imaginative genius really helps to secure the audience's pity and admiration for the hero by discussing his heroic qualities throughout the play. Macbeth's extraordinary prowess is frequently emphasised - he is described variously as "daring Macbeth", "Bellona's bridegroom", "Valour's minion". Sweetheart Macbeth's words that her spouse is "too full o'th'milk of real human kindness" can be an indication of his innate goodness. Yet, at exactly the same time, he's exceedingly ambitious and this ambition is, matching to Bradley, "abhorrent to his better emotions" (Bradley 294). His enthusiasm for power and self-assertion are so powerful that he handles to curb the words of his conscience and move forward with further evil. But Macbeth is, as David S. Kastan points out, too delicate in his knowing of wicked to be reducible to the moral animation of Malcolm's judgement: "this deceased butcher " (Kastan 18). In this context G. Wilson Knight says that Macbeth gets: '. his reasons and motives hopelessly wrong. Macbeth, whose conscience revolts from the crime, persuades himself that he's a most cold-blooded villain, and only fears actual and personal abuse. '(Knight 136)

Macbeth himself says

I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intention, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself

And falls on th'other- (I, vii, 25-28)

Macbeth is correctly alert to the futility of such "ambition", yet he will get no better name. One fine interpretation that is given as to the reasons Macbeth chooses on a course repellent to his instincts and reasoning is the fact he sets about the murder "as an appalling duty" (Bradley 293). It really is as though with the initial crime, Macbeth makes a decision to go through sort of self-imposed punishment where he wilfully can take recourse to evil instead of repenting and turns himself into a hard-core felony.

G. Wilson Knight says that Macbeth suffers a state of division, anticipated to conflicting impulses, for and against his crime (Knight 141). Macbeth's mental torment, the continuance of the inward division, prevents any extended success. Macbeth fails in his techniques not so much because of outward occasions and forces but through the working of that part of his character which formerly forbade the murder. Macbeth might have been ambitious but his ambition didn't initially have the condition and frenzy of any hardened offender. Macbeth's additional crimes are in reality the outcome of his agonised conscience. Possessed he, right from the start, been a hardened murderer, he would have carried out the act without the inner turmoil, and there could have been nothing to avoid his establishing himself carefully on the throne. Conscience, which had urged him not to murder Duncan, now causes him to murder many others. Kenneth Muir says that Macbeth hasn't a predisposition to murder; he has only an inordinate ambition that makes murder itself seem to be to be a lesser evil than failure to attain the crown and so satisfy his partner (Shakespeare 48). Macbeth explains to his wife right before the murder of Duncan that they shouldn't continue with the murder: "We will move forward no further in this business" (I, vii, 31). He also contemplates:

. . that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all- here,

But here, upon this bank or investment company and shoal of their time,

We'd jump the life to come. (I, vii, 4-7)

What we see in these lines is a deep tragic build which speaks of the hero's tormented conscience which revolts against the criminal offenses he contemplates. Furthermore, because Macbeth is not a hardened legal, he must change his corporal faculties for the act, he must ". flex up/ Each corporal agent to this dreadful feat" (I, vii, 80-81).

Macbeth's hurting is heightened further by his exceedingly stunning imagination. A. C. Bradley says in this admiration that Macbeth has "the imagination of a poet" which: 'Macbeth's better aspect. rather than talking with him in the overt words of moral ideas, directions and prohibitions, comes with itself in images which security alarm and horrify. ' (Bradley 295). Macbeth's vision of the floating dagger, the words that cries "Macbeth shall sleeping forget about", the ghost of Banquo, etc. are figments of his creativity which serve to identify his torment and anguish and it is precisely this internal anguish that helps in gaining the audience's sympathy for the hero. Macbeth's spirit speaks to him in the condition of his imagination and whenever this thoughts is productive, we feel the suspense, horror, awe as well as the admiration and sympathy latent in it. On this framework John Harvey says: 'The poetry Macbeth speaks charts with impressive subtlety and fidelity the ebb and move of his mind. It is because we are swayed by this ebb and flow that the tragic hero is so near to us. the poetry makes us to share his experience and to make it our own. ' (Harvey 32). Macbeth's poetry is one of Shakespeare's most significant triumphs in his characterisation of the tragic hero. His poetry voices widespread human being experience and really helps to raise him from the amount of a villain to that of the tragic hero with whom we can associate and sympathise.

Thus Macbeth is seen as embodying the characteristics of an ideal tragic hero - he is neither a perfect nor an innately wicked personality whose hamartia or problem causes his degeneration. Yet it can't be rejected that he consciously embraces the path of bad. The influence of external real estate agents like Girl Macbeth's instigation and the prophecy of the witches might have been easily ignored by Macbeth. A. C. Bradley opines that Macbeth was absolve to accept or avoid the temptation but the temptation had been within him (Bradley 288). John Harvey in this context says: "Macbeth is a free of charge agent, he must choose of his own free will to do bad. " (Harvey 35). Which means influences of the witches and Woman Macbeth can be interpreted as the outward manifestations of the evil desires natural in the hero and the ones desires only climb into awareness under these influences. Thus Macbeth becomes a tragic hero who intentionally renounces the road of best for fulfilling his evil ambitions. Aristotle got regarded the completely depraved evil figure as being unworthy of becoming a tragic hero stating that such a character fails to evoke pity and fear among the audience. Macbeth's identity is somewhat of the deviation out of this concept and it is here that Shakespeare brings a different aspect to his tragic hero.

The Aristotelian hamartia is an error usually caused by the ignorance or carelessness of the hero. Macbeth's mistake is, however, purposeful and he wilfully chooses evil. Yet Macbeth manages to gain our sympathy by the end of the play by his sheer stength and capability to realise the futility of his deeds. Bradley says that there remains something sublime in the defiance with which, even though cheated of his last hope, Macbeth faces earth and hell and heaven (Bradley 305). Macbeth can happen to us as a cold-blooded villain, but there remains something grand about him. There is a tragic grandeur in his strained perversion of the will, in his interest and in his present of imaginative manifestation and all these evoke a feeling of sympathy in us. In conjunction with this is a sense of waste of the actual that Macbeth got in him. On this framework A. C. Bradley says: 'With Shakespeare, at any rate, the pity and dread that happen to be stirred by the tragic storyline seem to be to unite with, and even to combine in, a deep sense of sadness and secret, which is because of this impression of waste materials. ' (Bradley 16).

Thus Macbeth, despite being villainous, is not totally a depraved person, for he keeps our sympathy and his tragedy does indeed release the cathartic feelings in the audience. It of course requires the genius of a Shakespeare to portray tragic villains of this type. Macbeth is a hero who becomes a villain, and in this esteem Kenneth Muir comments: 'His [Shakespeare's] imaginative perception of the human heart made it essential for him to research the steps where a commendable and valiant man is taken to his damnation, and present the process in such a way concerning arouse our pity and terror. ' (Shakespeare 53). Even on the verge of damnation, Macbeth commands our admiration by challenging destiny and reasserting his valour just like a true hero: "Yet I'll try the last" (V, viii, 32) Macbeth is acutely alert to his tragic reversal, when he says

. . my way of life

Is fall'n in to the sere, the yellow leaf;

And whatever should accompany old age,

As honour, love, behavior, troops of friends,

I should never turn to have; but in their stead,

Curses (V, iii, 22-27)

It is this self-knowledge that elevates Macbeth from the level of a criminal compared to that of any tragic hero. Macbeth's figure is a understated combination of good and evil. He is an bad man, but he's not the tragic hero who is purely evil, for a persona like this would be neither individual nor interesting, as Aristotle acquired described. Shakespeare makes his hero feel "the entire agony of the moral have difficulty within him" (Harvey 31); if he does wicked, at least he realises the full horror of his deeds and suffers appropriately. Shakespeare deviates from the Aristotelian dictum in Macbeth insofar as he takes a villain as his tragic hero but his creative genius imparts a certain tragic grandeur to Macbeth, which is victorious our sympathy, thereby making him fit into the essential Aristotelian paradigm.

(Word count: 2141)

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