Macbeth as a Tragic Hero

Essay by assassin418High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2006

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A tragic hero is defined as a person who holds a seat of authority or power, but is doomed to eventually fall. The hero's tragic flaw, usually hubris or hamartia (excessive pride and rashness respectively), results in a spiraling downfall. Macbeth exemplifies these characteristics of a tragic hero. He is of noble birth and succumbs to hubris and his ambitious nature. By being victimized by not only the witches, but also his wife and the reader's sympathy towards him, Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a tragic hero.

Macbeth first meets the witches that will ultimately decide his fate in Act 1. The witches have the ability to foresee the future, which enables them to make predictions as to what will happen to Macbeth in the future. The witches first spark Macbeth's ambition when they hint at Macbeth's future by saying, "All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!" (Act 1, Scene III).

Macbeth was Thane of Glamis at the time of hearing this from the witches and soon King Duncan pronounced that Macbeth would take the traitorous Macdonwald's place as Thane of Cawdor after Macbeth personally killed him in battle. King Duncan says, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death and with his former title greet Macbeth." The witch's first premonition has come true and Macbeth has begun his rise in power and stature. These predictions have brought his ambitions and pride to life, which will eventually lead to Duncan's murder by Macbeth's hands. The witches have, in a way, victimized Macbeth, which generates sympathy in the reader.

Macbeth is also a victim of his wife, Lady Macbeth. Although Macbeth wants to continue his...