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Is Macbeth A Traditional Tragic Hereo

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Introduction

Is Macbeth A Traditional Tragic Hereo There is one thing that seems to be common to all tragedies, whether classical or more contemporary. The tragedy is titled with the name of the central character, the tragic hero. This signals that the play is concerned with the fate, destiny, actions and consequences of this main character. The two methods of Reversal and Recognition are used masterfully in 'Macbeth'. Reversal, the change from one state of affairs to its exact opposite, occurs when Macbeth begins the play noble and honourable; he is loved and respected as a skilled warrior. He kills many people in battle and spears their heads upon his battlements. At the end of the play Macbeth is killed , and it is his head upon the battlements, ironically put there by the same people he was fighting with. He begins the play heralded as 'valiant cousin' and 'worthy gentleman, he ends as a 'tyrant', 'usurper' and 'butcher'. This is a complete reversal of the situation. Recognition, the change from ignorance to truth, is used very powerfully at the end of the play. Macbeth thinks he is invincible because the witches have told him that he will not be vanquished until 'Great Birnam Wood (moves) to High Dunsinane Hill'. They also told him that 'none of woman born shall harm Macbeth'. He assumes he is safe then because a wood cannot move and no man can not be born of woman. But Macbeth is blinded by what he wants to be true. So when he is informed that Birnam Wood appears to be moving, we can imagine how he feels, though he still has the other prophecy to fall back on until he comes face to face with Macduff, who informs Macbeth that he was 'from his mother's womb Untimely ripped'. This is the recognition, the realisation that he is not invincible and that, in all probability, Macduff will kill him because there was another prophecy that said 'beware Macduff'. ...read more.

Middle

Macbeth has realised the truth about the insignificance of man. He probably feels that his life, everything he has been through, is just a frivolous charade. I suppose the overriding truth that comes out of Macbeth's suffering is the danger of ambition and greed. Ambition causes you to do things you wouldn't normally do; it can be blinding and though it is necessary in some degree, it can be painfully consuming. Macbeth had everything he wanted at the beginning of the play, and then added to that was the title of Thane of Cawdor. But after the witches dangled something more in front of him, he was no longer content with his lot. He became greedy, and driven on by a combination of greed and ambition, he was prepared to do anything to get the title he wanted. A tragic hero's greatness of character and talent is wasted through tragic circumstance. On one level we cannot really say whether Macbeth has a greatness of character because in the play we don't meet him until after he's under the influence of the witches, and then of his ambition and his 'fiendish' wife. But we can make some assumptions. At the beginning of the play everyone seems to love, admire and respect him. Duncan refers to him as 'valiant cousin' and 'worthy gentleman'. The captain refers to him as 'brave Macbeth' and compares him to a lion and an eagle. Duncan demonstrates his love for Macbeth by giving him the title of Thane of Cawdor. Lady Macbeth thinks he is 'too full o'th'milk of human kindness' to kill Duncan. In short, everyone thinks he is great. If Macbeth was really a closet murderer, would he have been able to fool everybody, even his wife? We see his poor acting skills and inappropriate, almost farcical ramblings when the body of Duncan is discovered. If he had been harbouring bloody, murderous thoughts prior to the beginning of the play, I don't know if he could have kept them secret, especially not from his wife who appears to know him inside- out. ...read more.

Conclusion

Some examples of modern-day tragic heroes are Captain Oates, who died on a return trip from the Antarctic to enable his team to survive, Martin Luther King, who was assassinated because he was a black rights activist, and Gandhi, who was again assassinated while fighting for independence in India. Whichever way you look at him, Macbeth is contemptible, even if you think he was just an instrument of the witches, and unable to escape his fate. In that case he is still loathsome because of the weakness he exhibits with Lady Macbeth and the unnecessary murders of Lady Macduff and all her household. Macbeth achieved nothing terribly momentous in his life, apart from his success as a soldier. But his latter behaviour ruins any favourable impression you might have formed of him. Macbeth did not die in tragic circumstances; he was killed by the husband and father of people he had murdered without a cause; he was defending his unlawful position as King against the claims of the true heir to the crown, and he died as he lived his life: selfishly and thoughtlessly, without putting right or seeming to regret any of the vile acts he has committed or the self-interested pain he has caused. Macbeth does say to Macduff 'But get thee back, my soul is too much charged With blood of thine already', this could be taken that Macbeth doesn't want to commit any more murders, and that maybe he regrets killing Lady Macduff and her children. But I believe that Macbeth doesn't want to fight with Macduff because he was told to 'beware Macduff', and that this is an excuse. I think Macbeth maybe also wanted to reinforce and perhaps gloat over the fact that he had killed Macduff's family while he was in England. So while in a classical sense Macbeth fulfils the criteria for a tragic hero, in my eyes he is neither heroic nor tragic; only selfish, feeble and insatiable. But then I am judging him by the standards of today, and not in the context in which he was written. ...read more.

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