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Macbeth : a tragic hero or bloody tyrant?

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Introduction

Macbeth : a tragic hero or bloody tyrant? Written by William Shakespeare probably in late 1606 or early 1607, Macbeth is considered by many people to be the darkest of Shakespeare's works. The play is a tragedy about death and deceit amongst the Scottish noblemen. It focuses on the rise and fall of the main character, Macbeth. The argument on whether Macbeth is a tragic hero or a bloody tyrant still remains unsettled. In order to answer this question, we have to define the characteristics that make up a tragic hero. According to Dr. Peter A. Smith from the English department of Kentucky State University, a tragic hero possesses many several criteria. Firstly, the character must be of noble stature, meaning he is a man with outstanding quality. His actions must affect an excessive amount of people. Secondly, his downfall is the result of his tragic flaw or "hamartia". However, the most common flaw is excessive pride or "hubris". Thirdly, the hero's decline is thew result of his own "free will". Although "fate" has a very important part in the play, there is always a factor of choice portrays in the story. Fourthly, the audiences are usually left feeling that the hero's misfortune is not wholly deserved. The fifth criterion is that the tragic hero will eventually realise what went wrong but it is too late to undo the harm. ...read more.

Middle

However, Macbeth's conscience was troubled. "...Besides, this Duncan..., hath been So clear in his great office, that this virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against The deep damnation of his talking-off." (Act 1: Scene 7: L.16-20) He knew that by killing Duncan who represented a figure of decent human being, heaven itself would detest his decision and he would be condemned. After struggling with his conscience and showing his reluctance to betray the king, he finally decided not to kill Duncan. "We will proceed no further in this business He hath honoured me of late, and I have bought Golden opinion from all sorts of people," (Act 1: Scene 7: L.31-33) Macbeth was, perhaps, being selfish and wanted to be admired by the people for a bit longer, or his conscience might be causing his determination to weaken. Both reasons demonstrated that he was showing mercy, and mercy was definitely not a quality of a bloody tyrant. At this stage, he was not yet a bloody tyrant. However, later when Lady Macbeth insulted him by calling him a coward and questioning his masculinity, Macbeth changed his mind. Lady Macbeth's speech was considered to be very persuasive. She also brought up the concept of being the same in action as in desire to Macbeth. ...read more.

Conclusion

"We are yet but young in deed" (Act 3: Scene 4: L.144) Macbeth was saying that he has done so many bad deeds that he could barely wait to engage in the evil acts again. We could clearly see at this stage that Macbeth's character has developed into someone who appeared to be malevolent by nature. He had lost all his good equalities. His speech showed his extreme hunger for power and control. He would kill according to his will. Macbeth later went to see the witches again and has received three apparitions. The witches told him that someone who was "none of woman born" would bring about his death. This prophecy has made him even more arrogant thinking that he was invincible, and it seemed to give him new pleasure for killing. He has Macduff's family murdered and his castle demolished. After the death of Lady Macbeth, he took actions into his own hands. In the end, he suffered from internal revolt and eventually killed by Macduff, who later revealed that he was born by caesarean. Even though, towards the end, Macbeth has adopted most of the characteristics of evil tyrant, his death produced "catharsis" in audiences. Our emotions are cleansed knowing that the throne is now in charge by good people. Macbeth started off as being a "tragic hero", but eventually, towards the end, his madness and hallucination has transformed him into a "bloody tyrant. ...read more.

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