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A tragic hero was defined by Aristotle as one who makes an error of judgment that eventually leads to their own destruction. Aristotle once had said that “A man doesn’t become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the protagonist Macbeth is a true example of a tragic hero as he had countless noble qualities coupled with several tragic flaws. He holds an importance to his society; in the beginning, a fearless nationalist, fighting for his country and then eventually he became king. Macbeth did have some major character flaws such as his great ambition, him being haunted by superstition and he had made many grave errors in judgment, one of them being the murder of the King of Scotland. For the duration of events in the plot, Macbeth progressively becomes more and more miserable. There were outside forces which contributed to his corruption; the main force would be the three witches. A Shakespearean tragic hero contains all or most of the following qualities: providing a moral example to the audience, suffering public embarrassment, and meeting his doom with courage and dignity which Macbeth did all of. With it taken into consideration, Macbeth is most definitely a tragic hero.
With Macbeth becoming more important in the plot is one of the crucial reasons to why he became a tragic hero in the end. Macbeth was a Scottish general, who was a fearless man and his performance in Scotland’s battle was celebrated greatly in the beginning of the play. Macbeth’s performance was described by the Captain as “Cannons overcharged with double cracks, so the doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe” (1.2.41-42) With Macbeth doing so well and receiving such positive feedback, King Duncan couldn’t help but be so overjoyed with Macbeth. With all of the valiant news, Duncan’s only response was to upgrade Macbeth’s title from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor. “No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive Our bosom interest. Go, pronounce his present death, and with his former title greet Macbeth” (1.2.73-76); “What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won.” (1.2.78).
Many of Macbeth’s major character flaws were displayed along with his weaknesses and serious errors in judgment in the duration of the play. After he received all the recognition from his success in battle along with his title being upgraded, the ambition he had to become king couldn’t help but rise. His ambition to become King was too heavy and they overtook his morals in the end after meeting the witches’ and hearing his prophecies. When his ambition was combined with the witches’ prophecies it was as if he no longer had morals since he was easily persuaded into what he’d like to hear. When Macbeth is thinking of murdering Duncan to become King his ambition takes control for a moment, but then his morality takes back over. “Why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair and make my seated heart knock at my ribs against the use of nature?” (1.3.147-150). When Macbeth recognizes that he is opening up to his temptation, he begins to question himself as to why. But, he begins to persuade himself into believing that the temptation of committing murder can’t be as daunting as he thinks it is, “Present fears are less than horrible imaginings” (1.3.150-151). In layman’s term, his only fear is fear itself. Macbeth is portrayed as this brave man, whose wife manipulates him by insulting and accusing him of being cowardice, which he believes he has to prove to be false. He won’t allow a single thing get in the way of his future as king. As soon as Macbeth made his final decision, after changing his mind five times, to kill Duncan; eventually it escalated into a sea of many problems both big and small; this is what brought Macbeth to his tragic end.
The roles that played the biggest part in Macbeth’s deteriorating character would have to be the three witches. “FIRST WITCH: All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis! SECOND WITCH: All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!
THIRD WITCH: All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!\” (1.3.51-53) The witches had no effect on anyone except Macbeth. Macbeth was completely captivated by the witches. If Macbeth had never met the witches or was told his prophecies he would have gone on through a life of no excitement. Due to being told the prophecies his curiosity of how he would be able to become King of Scotland began to grow immensely and the importance he holds for Scotland increases. Macbeth fast-tracked from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor and eventually reaching what he wanted the most, the title of the almighty King of Scotland.
In Act 4, scene 1, the three witches appear to Macbeth again and they conjure three apparitions for him. The first being (appears in 4.1.77) an armed head and told Macbeth to “Beware Macduff!” (4.1.81). Macbeth’s reaction to the witches after seeing the apparition was simply thank you. However, I already knew to do that. The second apparition (appears in 4.1.88) a bloody child that said to Macbeth that no man born of a woman could ever harm him. After seeing the second apparition Macbeth thought to himself why must I be aware of Macduff? Everyone is born of a woman. The third and final apparition that appeared to Macbeth (appears in 4.1.98) is a crowned child with a tree in his hand which told Macbeth that he must relax and forget about his troubles because “Macbeth shall never be vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.” (4.1.105-107). But Macbeth vetoed it off as a possibility because it seemed completely ridiculous and impossible for a forest to be able to move. However, unbeknownst to Macbeth was that Macduff actually had not been born of a woman. The doctors had to slice her open (cesarean birth) to remove the baby. Macbeth had been tricked by the three witches, due to Macbeth being so confident nothing would ever happen to him because of his prophecies he did not take the necessary precautions to protect his well-being and his title as King.
Macbeth was a victim of superstition due to his avid imagination. His superstition is what made it so easy for him to not question the promises that the apparitions made. His superstition is what made him strongly cling to his belief in the promises made even when circumstances became strenuous. His imagination is so strong that when it was left to run uncontrolled his “function/ Is smother’d in surmise.” As seen in the “dagger” scene and in the panic Macbeth had suffered after Duncan had been murdered. It was also seen in the scene which Macbeth saw Banquo’s ghost at the banquet.
Undoubtedly, Macbeth incarnates the attributes of Aristotle\’s tragic hero in many ways. He had become very important to his society and dreamed of being the most powerful ruler. His ruin was led by his overcoming ambition, superstition, and moral cowardice. It led to an ocean of problems from which there was no possible solution to and from that came his inevitable doom. Macbeth started as a nobleman who was hailed as the savior of this country, a “valiant cousin,” a “worthy gentlemen,” but changed to a man of unending cruelty. There should be no skepticism about this, Macbeth is indeed a tragic hero.