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How far do you consider Macbeth to be a Shakespearean Tragic Hero?

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Introduction

How far do you consider Macbeth to be a Shakespearean Tragic Hero? A.C. Bradley's book, 'A Shakespearean Tragedy' discusses the characteristics that, in his opinion, prove that a character is a Shakespearean Tragic Hero. I will use his criteria to discuss whether it is likely that Macbeth was a tragic hero. A.C. Bradley believes that a tragic hero is a person of greatness. However, he also states that this does not necessarily have to mean that the character is a person of goodness. It is clear from 'Macbeth' that the protagonist is a person of greatness - his high rank in the army. However, we can also see that, due to his character flaw, Macbeth is not a person of goodness. It is obvious in 'Macbeth' that towards the beginning of the play, Macbeth is highly regarded by his superiors, "For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name - Disdaining fortune....Like valour's minion carved out of his passage....Till he unseamed him from the nave to th'chaps". The Captain's speech clearly shows Macbeth's braveness and the extent to which the Captain admires and respects him. It also shows that Macbeth is patriotic as he is fighting for his King. However, this gruesome image also portrays some negative characteristics that Macbeth possesses. The brutality of his fighting is praised by the Captain, as he believes it to be a good reason. However, Macbeth's ability to be both brave and ruthless can be seen in a different context later in the play, when he uses his skills to murder his King. Macbeth's high status in the army also emphasises Macbeth's ability to murder and it expresses the extent of his skill whilst fighting. This point is further portrayed later in the Captain's conversation with King Duncan, "They doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe. Except they meant to bath in reeking wounds or memorise another Golgotha" This description of Macbeth and Banquo shows braveness and ruthlessness, which indicates harshness to the slaughter, and Macbeth's lack of concern when murdering. ...read more.

Middle

The most obvious way in which Macbeth's actions affect others is the effect on the victims themselves and their families. For example, Macbeth only intends to kill Fleance is to ensure that the witches' predictions do not come true. Macbeth is willing to kill his best friend just to ensure his security. Macbeth's actions also affect the Macduff family, "The castle of Macduff I will surprise, Seize upon Fife, give to th' edge o'th'sword His wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls That trace him in his line." The witches have worried macbeth about being defeated and losing his throne, so he is determined to do what he feels necessary to ensure his security, even if it means murdering the innocent youth. When Macduff hears of the murder of his family, he is deeply affected, "They were most precious to me. They were struck for thee. Naught that I am, Not for their own demerits but for mine, Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now." macduff has lost his whole family as a result of Macbeth's ambition, and he takes it out on him self. During Macbeth reign, Scotland is highly effected as a co'I think our country sinks beneath the yoke' Macbeth's actions affect his own beloved wife, who finds the strain of murder to difficult to bear and, as a result, leading to death, but not before going insane, "It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands, I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour." Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking represents the poor state of her mind, and her deep feelings of remorse. She repeats comments relating to murders that both she and her husband have committed. The fact that Lady Macbeth continuously washes her clean hands is symbolic of the blood that she cannot remove from her mind. She is trying to remove the image of Duncan's blood from her thoughts by washing her hands. ...read more.

Conclusion

I believe that the audience should feel pity and sympathy towards Macbeth at points in the play, as he realises that what he is doing is immoral, but he cannot change the past. Therefore, Macbeth does provoke sympathy, as A.C. Bradley suggests a 'tragic hero' must. The final point in A.C. Bradley's criteria of a tragic hero is that the character must die at the end of the play. This is obviously the case with Macbeth, 'Then he is dead?/Ay, and brought off the field.' If Macbeth had lived, then he would not have been considered a tragic hero. Shakespeare wrote his play, 'Macbeth' for King James I - who was the first king to unite England and Scotland. The aim of the play was to seek to stop plots to overthrow leaders and prevent a repeat of incidents such as the 'Gunpowder Plot'. Therefore, Macbeth had to die at the end of the play in order to provide a moral message to others, that treason was not acceptable, and King James I could not be overthrown without punishment from God, and constant torture for the murderer. If Macbeth had lived, then the play would not have provided a moral message to traitors and may even have proved that it is possible to overthrow a leader without being caught and punished. In conclusion, it is clear that Macbeth matches A.C. Bradley's criteria of a 'Shakespearean Tragic Hero' throughout the play. Initially, Macbeth is a person of high status within the army, who experiences success on the battlefield. However, due to his excessive ambition Macbeth kills King Duncan, after battling with his own conscience and, therefore, causes a great deal of suffering for himself and his country. In the end, Macbeth is murdered as a result of his attempts to become more powerful, so his death is, in fact, self-inflicted. However, Macbeth deeply regretted what he had done and, therefore, the audience feel a certain degree of sympathy towards him at several points throughout the play. ...read more.

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