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"Certainly not tragic, not even heroic". How far do you agree with this estimation of the character Macbeth?

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Introduction

'CERTAINLY NOT TRAGIC, NOT EVEN HEROIC' HOW FAR DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS ESTIMATION OF THE CHARACTER MACBETH? The character Macbeth's personality undergoes a major upheaval during the play Macbeth. To depict what kind of a person he is entails describing what kind of fluctuations in probity and integrity his character goes through, and what kind of man he is perceived to be throughout the ages and his place in cultured history. In the First Folio, Macbeth is branded as a definite tragedy. However, Macbeth has spawned a number of works of art, ranging from the operas both entitled Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi and Ernst Bl�ch to The Lion King (which is based loosely around Macbeth). This suggests a much deeper and more complex character in Macbeth, not simply a clear cut tyrant or a valiant hero with a tragic flaw that scuppers him despite his best efforts. Therefore, the definition of the Macbeths as a 'dead butcher and his fiend-like wife' does not do justice to the multitudinous perspectives from which one must view the Macbeths to get a complete picture of their thought patterns. When considering whether Macbeth is a hero, it becomes evident that at the start of the play, before we even meet him, he is a successful general, noble and valiant in all he undertakes. This is shown particularly in the Captain's speech: 'Doubtful it stood, As two swimmers that do cling together And choke their art. ...read more.

Middle

Duncan in which he may yet stay a good man as before, with no desire for evil, or progress and transform into the tyrant he becomes. It is his morals, not any cowardice, which initially restrain him from killing King Duncan: 'He's here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against the murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself.' This proves that, while he may not be the same indefatigably loyal subject he once was, he is still good at heart and is still reasonable. Macbeth goes on in this soliloquy to admire the characteristics that make Duncan such a good king, and seems to stray from the murder more and more. He wrestles with himself for some time in this vein, deliberating and worrying. Finally, though, he is convinced that killing him is the right thing to do by his amoral wife, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth, unlike her husband, has no conscience. Before the murder of Duncan, she is the stronger of the two. Shortly after it, Macbeth is horrified by what he has done, whereas she is confident and unmoved, as she doesn't understand that killing such a good man for her own benefit is immoral. However, as the play progresses, Macbeth becomes more and more ruthless to ensure that Duncan's murder was not in vain and that he should reap as much as he can from committing such a terrible crime (i.e. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Macbeth' gives an account of two different men. The first, an steadfastly loyal servant to the throne, who holds his friends close to his heart and would never do anything morally wrong; the second, a conceited tyrant whose actions directly benefit himself and bring unthinkable suffering to other, indeed a 'dead butcher'. However, while the statement 'Certainly not tragic, not even heroic' is not incorrect, it doesn't paint the whole picture. Macbeth is, at different stages of the play, heroic, such as in battle with the traitorous Macdonald and, to some extent, at the end when facing Macduff in his last epic showdown. He also shows the characteristics of a hero when he acknowledges that he has been duped by the witches' apparitions before deciding upon the manner of his death. Also, though, he is tragic in a way, as his fall from nobility was a result of a flaw that arose from his evil wife and the witches; his hamartia, in a sense, was his ambition. However, there is no real anagnorisis; no point of illumination. In addition, Macbeth is still not moral or remorseful enough towards to latter stages of the play for the audience to identify with him as a tragic hero. He is not allowed (or does not utilise) any opportunity to learn from his mistakes. It is because of these points that, in a classical sense, he is neither a tragic hero, nor and evil butcher, but something in between. ?? ?? ?? ?? BRAMAN THILLAINATHAN GCSE ENGLISH COURSEWORK ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a good essay in some respects, in that it achieves a competent character analysis of Macbeth and his motivations, but it does suffer from structural issues. However, the statement given for discussion is 'Certainly not tragic, not even ...

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Response to the question

This is a good essay in some respects, in that it achieves a competent character analysis of Macbeth and his motivations, but it does suffer from structural issues. However, the statement given for discussion is 'Certainly not tragic, not even heroic'. The candidate does not discuss these aspects in the main body of the essay, and only really addresses them when drawing his/her conclusions in the final paragraphs. In an essay such as this, it is also important to set the parametres of the discussion, i.e. define 'tragic' and 'heroic', clearly set out an argument for or against the statement (although ideally more nuanced than this), and qualify it with reference to the text and referring back to the original statement. The candidate has failed to do this, thus making their line of argument somewhat difficult to follow.

Level of analysis

The candidate's analysis is very good in many respects; s/he closely references the text and discusses the use of literary devices and motifs well. The essay could benefit from closer quotation and reference to the text in places, although generally it is good. However, the structural problems I have highlighted above have to be rectified before the literary analysis could be considered useful as it should be used to strengthen an argument not as a substitute for one. It is likely that this candidate studies Latin and/or Greek and as a result has used some of these literary terms in his/her essay. While this can be impressive, it is important to ensure it is done appropriately. The use of the word 'hamartia' (presumably to mean 'tragic flaw') jars somewhat and seems slightly inappropriate as it is a complex term which has attracted a lot of debate on its precise meaning. If you are unsure it is better to express your ideas in plain English rather than using Latin or Greek terminology.

Quality of writing

The quality of writing in this piece is of an exceptionally high standard for GCSE level. The candidate has demonstrated a command of a large vocabulary, a high standard of grammar and a fluent writing style.


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Reviewed by medbh4805 07/02/2012

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