The Tragic Hero in Macbeth

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Aristotle’s tragic hero must possess these four characteristics: goodness; superiority; a tragic flaw; and the realisation of both that flaw and the inevitable downfall (Literary Connections, 2008). In Macbeth, William Shakespeare’s representation of the tragic hero can be seen through the character Macbeth. “For Brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name” (Act I, Scene II line 16) Shakespeare further constructs this representation through the second characteristic, superiority. The first prophecy told to Macbeth and Banquo by the three witches entails specific details of Macbeth’s future: “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis.

All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor.
All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter.” (Act I, Scene III, line 46 – 48) Soon after, Macbeth is promoted to the Thane of Cawdor. This is when Shakespeare introduces Macbeth’s tragic flaw, his gullibility to what the witches tell him and his driving ambition to be king. Macbeth realises this tragic flaw and vows to fight to death: “Arm, Arm, and out!...

At least we’ll die with harness on our back.” (Act V, Scene V, line 45 – 51) Although Macbeth fits the characteristics of the tragic hero, contrary to Aristotle’s tragic hero, his downfall is far from heroic. He is beheaded by Macduff, instead of receiving a “mortal wound” which a King falling during battle would commonly receive.

It is evident through Shakespeare’s altered version of the tragic hero that he has constructed this representation to reflect his own cultural assumptions, values and beliefs learnt through his upbringing. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, who produced many works of literature in which he produced a piece of work on Poetics, which spoke of tragedy and the tragic hero (Aristotle: Politics and Art, 2008). These pieces of work were often studied by those of a higher social class (Referatele.com, 2008). John Shakespeare, William’s father, was the chamberlain of the town William grew...
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