Is Macbeth a Tragic Hero?
Shakespeare. Edward Dowden commented in his book entitled Shakespeare: His Mind
and Art, “Macbeth is one of the unmitigated characters without any redeeming
features.” Macbeth has been described as “the friend of Scotland”, “Valour’s
minion”, “Bellona’s Bridegroom”, and “abhorred tyrant”. Some critics regard
Macbeth as fundamentally good but misled by ambition. John Lawlor in his book
The Tragic Sense in Shakespeare remarked “The fall of Macbeth is in his
weakness to shore higher and higher with the wings of ambition.” Macbeth is
truly the most studied character in the tragic universe of Shakespeare.
and Macbeth we hear the name
of the protagonist in the very first scene, but we learn nothing significant
about them: we hear the name of Macbeth with two dismal animal figures – “Graymalkin” and “Paddock”. This parallelism introduces the animosity of Macbeth’s
chaotic mental condition ravished by overwhelming ambition.
opposite lines. Lady Macbeth’s journey is from a criminal to a woman of flesh
and blood. On the other hand, Macbeth’s gradual hardening into a ruthless
tyrant becomes the centrality of the dramatic course in Macbeth.
from the battlefield in a victorious mood. He impresses us as a brave general
of the royal army. The King of Norway came with his huge army and yet Macbeth
was not dismayed. He ruthlessly met all his adversities and became the hero of
the hour. Macbeth performs the role of true patriot who is at the service of
the King of Scotland and saved Duncan from dishonour. His indomitable courage
brought “golden opinion from all sorts of people.” King Duncan cannot find
words to praise him adequately:
“A peerless kinsman”
Which smoked with bloody execution.”
(Witches) who made prophecies about the future of Macbeth:
Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!
Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!
Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!
Macbeth, “Good sir, why do you stop and seem to fear thing that do sounds so
fair.” (Act-I, Scene-III)
after hearing the future possibility of becoming the King cast heavy on Macbeth.
Like a true tragic hero, character of Macbeth was shaped with tragic flaw (hamartia)
. According to Shakespeare, “Character
is destiny” – the weakness in character leads to the tragic destination.
Shakespeare’s other tragic heroes; Othello meets his tragic damnation because
of his characteristic flaw “He believed what he is said”; Hamlet spins out his
own tragedy for his hamartia “to be or not to be”; King Lear faces his tragic
downfall due to his self-conceit. Likewise the ambition of royal hope turns
Macbeth restless, caused to face his final catastrophe.
well-nourished by his sweetheart, Lady Macbeth. She has become the powerhouse
of Macbeth – she is the perfect judge of Macbeth’s Character:
To catch the nearest way…”
Macbeth is aware of the fact that Macbeth’s mind is soft and that is full of
virtues. In reality we come to know that Lady Macbeth takes the leadership in
killing Duncan. But it is Macbeth who kills Duncan. After killing Duncan Macbeth
becomes a tyrant; he employs murderer to kill Banquo with whom he shared a
blessed time of friendship; he also sends murderers to kill Macduff and his
family. The impression we got about Macbeth that he loves criminality in his
his poetic mind. When Macbeth narrates the story of murdering Duncan, he says “I
have most need of blessing and amen stuck in my throat.” He also goes on : “Macbeth
does murder sleep – the innocent sleep.” This dramatic encomium to sleep is a
typical Elizabethan practice. And Macbeth is his mouthpiece.
Macbeth was a high philosopher of life. He
Life’s but a walking shadow, a
poor playerThat struts and frets his hour
upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
royal army. Initially both of them are of the same rank. But Banquo though
eclipsed by Macbeth has proved his charisma in the battlefield. Both Banquo and
Macbeth meet with the witches and both of them hear “supernatural soliciting”.
Macbeth shows the reflex to express his inner temptation. On the other had
Banquo is judicially a detached character; he is not tempted by the instrument
of Darkness. According to A. C. Bradley,
“Banquo remains as a passive character
all through the play.”
the commission of common crimes. There are elements of contrast at the roots of
their respective characters. Macbeth is ambitious on his own account; Lady
Macbeth is ambitious for the sake of his husband. She is instrumental for
fulfilling the ambition. Macbeth plans the murder in his imagination and Lady
Macbeth becomes “the dearest partner of greatness.” Macbeth is fully aware of
the consequences of his action; Lady Macbeth is entirely blind to them.
Therefore Macbeth and Lady Macbeth constitute the both sides of the same coin –
the versed and the reversed.
parasomnia died a hysteric death. On the other hand, like a true tragic hero, Macbeth
boldly faces with Macduff even after knowing that Macduff is going to kill him:
“I have lived long enough. My way of life
Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf…”
in his Poetics (Chapter V) discusses
about the true nature of the tragic hero – the final impression on the arousal
of pity and fear. Macbeth’s downfall truly satisfied the Aristotelian definition
of true tragic hero aroused pity and fear at the time of catastrophe.