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Macbeth As A Tragic Hero

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Shakespeare's Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

The character of Macbeth is a familiar example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. There are many contributing factors which lead to his overall demise, often referred to as degeneration of his character who "suffers from ambition" (Cunningham 111-21) and the "passions of the mind" (Kirsch 269-96). Macbeth was born a Scottish nobleman who was a recognized soldier with an appetite for his opposing enemy's blood in order to protect his country and gain his valor. Although he was initially admired, his deep sense of ambition combined with his manly lustful desires and dark evil conscience are what killed him in the end.

Macbeth was a tough kinsman who fought "strong both against the deed" (I.vii.13-14) and boldly said "I dare do all that may become a man; who dare does more is none" (II.vii.47-48). He was revered and fearless to all that knew his name, and was afraid of no one man; so it would appear on the surface. Perhaps no one knew him better than his best friend Banquo,

they fought jointly with one another on the battlefield trusting one another with everything,

as Macbeth told Banquo "let us speak our free hearts each to other" (I.iii.153-154). "Let's briefly put on our readiness, and meet i'th hall together" (II.iii.133-134). They fought victoriously against many men and won. At one time they would revere against anyone who chose to go against them. If only too soon to change upon their journey returning home from winning the war, they came upon three witches, of distasteful manifestation, and it has been stated by John Cunningham that Macbeth may have been "suffering from battle fatigue" (Cunningham 111-21) when he overheard what the witches were saying. "Witches were presumed to be lustful, sexually perverse and dominant" (Biggins 242-57). With an intention unclear at this point in time, they spoke only in riddles proclaiming things to come. They declared, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (I.i.10). In some odd way, it was as if they were trying to confuse Macbeth. The witches then, upon grabbing Macbeth's attention, begin to play an intricate part in the final demise of Macbeth because he began to believe what they told him. The three witches spoke of a prophecy that Macbeth would first be Thane of Cawdor, then Thane of Glamis, and then eventually become the King of Scotland. The third witch actually said "All hail Macbeth that shalt be king hereafter" (I.iii.50)! For someone in such ambitious position as Macbeth, this sounded like an ideal proposition for a man of his stature, if only it were to really happen. As Macbeth began to fall into the lure of such ideas his character then tried to reason with it's self asking Banquo if he himself did not wish after all, "do you not hope your children shall be kings, when those that gave the Thane of Cawdor to me promised no less to them" (I.iii.120-123)? I don't think that Macbeth ever thought about the position of King until the seed was planted in his mind by the witches. He began to think, "if chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, without my stir" (I.iii.44-46). Here, proclaiming directly, Macbeth testifies to his innocence of mind and initial position towards changing or bending any rules to obtain such titles. Even after the suggestion had been made, Macbeth still felt "if good, why do I yield to that suggestion" (I.iii.134)?

"Macbeth relentlessly pursues what he thinks of as his "own good" (III.iv.134), but the more he does, so the more he seems impelled by an infantile combination of helplessness and rage" (Kirsch 269-96). Given all this, as the play continues, what the witches had predicted would happen, actually did start to take place. "A man must be master of his fate, and thus when Macbeth trusts in the witch's prophecies he is emasculated. In order to escape the threat

of being unmanned, he defies fate and chooses a course of action that he knows must end in

his defeat" (Davis 219-36). When Macbeth returned home to his wife, he told her what the witches had said and Lady Macbeth's mind began to wander. The King did appoint Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, and then later crowned him as Thane of Glamis. With each passing appointment from the King, his wife reveled in the possibility of becoming the head woman in charge herself and Macbeth becoming King hereafter. She knew that her husband could not resist her seductive behaviors and knew what she had to say and do to get him to do as she wished. Her own dark inner greed and lust for power began to take over and get the best of her thoughts and intentions for herself and her noble kinsman husband. Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth's heart, that to become King is what it truly desires, even after his recent promotion. Lady Macbeth feeds off his ambition for worldly things and the title almost every man dreams of. I think she knew that she had to take very drastic measures to keep him moving in the direction of seeking the thrown of Scotland. For Lady Macbeth, "murder functions as a sexual act" (La Belle 381-86). "His frequent domination by his wife is symptomatic. His ambition provokes desires in him that he is increasingly incapable of satisfying, like the impotent drunkenness" (Kirsch 269-96). Macbeth's own self lust for his wife and his inner darkness started to corrupt his mind. The only way

that Macbeth could give in to his wife's seduction was to carry through with her plot to kill the King. The plan was for Lady Macbeth to kill the King herself when the King came to celebrate Macbeth's new honored title, and said to her husband, "he that's coming must be provided

for: and you shall put this night's business into my dispatch" (I.v.69-71). But unfortunately, she was unable to murder the King as planned, so she seduces her husband to do it. "Macbeth murders first a parental ruler, then a brotherly friend (his cheifest friend" according to Holmshed)



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