Macbeth - a Tragic Hero

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William Shakespeare's play Macbeth, written in the 1600's is a perfect example of Shakespeare's ability to manipulate his audience through creating a tragic hero. A tragic hero who, because of a flaw, tumbles from a well-respected hero to a cowardless murderer. It is through Shakespeare's manipulation of figurative language, dramatic conventions and social expectations of the seventeenth century, do the audience witness the demise of this mixed up man. Macbeth's persona of the tragic hero is enhanced even more when the characters around him influence his decisions, creating mayhem inside his mind and disorder throughout Scotland. Shakespeare positions his audience to respond to the central theme: the struggle between good and evil, by illustrating to the audience his weaknesses, which through the guidance of the supernatural, leads to murder and mayhem and eventually madness. It is this influence of the supernatural that leads to Macbeth's tragic persona and in turn his physical and mental destruction. Shakespeare utilises these techniques to embody in Macbeth characteristics indicative of that of a seventeenth century tragic hero.

Aristotle described the Greek image of the tragic hero as one who takes: part in a fictional account of a set of events that is
serious, complete and of a certain magnitude." (The Poetics)
Macbeth conforms to the image of the tragic hero by possessing a flaw and dying because if it. His flaw of being led too easily is evident through the actions of characters who influence Macbeth. Macbeth is involved in a story intertwined with evil, disorder, conflict and failure; all resulting finally in his death. Part of being a tragic hero is possessing a flaw. A flaw which will inevitably lead to self-destruction; the fall of the tragic hero. In the play, the central protagonist Macbeth, is confronted with the supernatural and the prophesy of becoming king. He cannot help but want this position, as this flaw also includes his weakness through over ambition. It is generally said that those possessing a flaw will die. The first Thane of Cawdor was a traitor, Duncan was too trusting, Banquo did not act on the knowledge he had about Macbeth's murders, Lady Macbeth helped plot the murder of Duncan, and Macbeth destroyed the natural order and harmony of the time. All of these deaths are a result of Macbeth's over ambition to become king, fuelled by the prophecies of the evil witches. Like Macbeth, a tragic hero has choices, a conscience of right from wrong and in the end must die, because to live would create mayhem and a feeling that his actions were justified. Macbeth conforms to all of these traits and is aware from the beginning that his success is inspired by his own damnation. However, he does not care and it is this pride and over ambition caused by his interaction with evil, which creates his inevitable breakdown in the end. The real tragedy of the play is that the impending events never would have taken place if it were not for Macbeth's tragic flaw and the supernatural foretelling and disorder which came about when the societal norms of the seventeenth century were broken.

Life in the seventeenth century influenced Shakespeare's writings as well as the audience response, due to societal myths. Values and attitudes were naturalised through the Elizabethan view of society: a hierarchal structure that demanded order and loyalty. Superstitions were prevalent throughout Elizabethan society and Shakespeare draws on the evil associated with this aspect, to play the essentially evil part of Macbeth; pushing him towards destruction. The fact that Macbeth possessed tragic hero qualities meant he had to die. This is due to his flaw, which urged him into sending innocent people to their deaths, creating chaos and deception in a society which could not handle it and which were not accustomed to such mortality. By sending Macbeth to his death, moral order was re-instated...
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