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'Macbeth' gives us a classic example of the literary definition of a 'tragic hero'. The title character is a Thane, of high birth, and an influential leader whose decisions affect many others.

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Introduction

Assignment one 'Macbeth' gives us a classic example of the literary definition of a 'tragic hero'. The title character is a Thane, of high birth, and an influential leader whose decisions affect many others. He possesses a number of admirable qualities, among these honesty and conscience. Along with these positive attributes, he also possesses a fatal flaw, namely ambition. And like so many other tragic heroes, he rapidly falls from grace before encountering a moment of enlightenment. The first indication of Macbeth's moral demise is plainly illustrated from the very first scene of the play, where the three witches are gathered amid an ominous backdrop - that of stormy weather, signalled by thunder and lightning. The tempestuous weather serves as an indication of change and upheaval of a negative nature, so that from the outset, it is evident that all shall not run smoothly during the course of the life of the title character. The witches' final words of the scene, 'Fair is foul and foul is fair', are eerily echoed by Macbeth later on, when he remarks, 'So foul and fair a day...' establishing a subconscious link between them. Macbeth can be described as a tragic hero since he possesses certain attributes of character and circumstances, which conform to the traditionalistic view of the literary tragic hero. Some of these characteristics are shown to us in the second scene through the eyes of Ross and the Sergeant. The latter ironically describes the Thane of Glamis as 'brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name'. Macbeth is portrayed as a noble and valiant fighter, and along with Banquo, is proclaimed the man of the hour. The Sergeant creates an immaculate picture of Macbeth, one that is larger than life. Shortly afterwards, the same man is described by Ross as the husband of Bellona, the goddess of war. The witches' first encounter with Macbeth and Banquo is where the first seeds of ambition are planted in Macbeth. ...read more.

Middle

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; Macbeth sees life as a continuum - repetitive, boring and futile. He has lost his zest for life, and has no illusions. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! The 'brief candle' that Macbeth is referring to is, of course, life itself. He has realised that man's finite existence is nothing compared to the infinity of time. Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more; Macbeth is asking himself why we all struggle to become rich, famous and popular, when eventually we will die, destroying all our efforts in one fell swoop. By saying that life is a 'walking shadow', he believes that life is insubstantial. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. For Macbeth, life is monotonous. He has lost all faith, and is insensitive and numb. His negative frame of mind and pessimistic outlook are surrounded by destruction; his words reflect that he is lonely, heartbroken and bitter. From what he has said, we realise that Macbeth has finally learnt a lesson in modesty, and is almost cured of his pride and his vaulting ambition. He also sees the evil malice of the witches, since later in the scene we hear from the messenger that Birnam Wood is moving towards Dunsinane, eerily echoing the third prophecy. The witches, being deceptive creatures, had used the words with a second meaning unknown to Macbeth. In the dying minutes of the play, Macbeth realises that the witches have misled him, by speaking to him with double meaning. He is finally enlightened. This is because he faces Macduff in a duel, and believes the second prophecy: 'No man of woman born shall harm Macbeth'. ...read more.

Conclusion

that he felt which would have meant that ambition or no ambition he would not have committed another murder or continued in his ruthless power quest which could have led to a quite different ending. In the latter situation she saves Macbeth from great embarrassment, humiliation and possibly the discovery of the truth by his thanes by keeping her control and providing an explanation and when they try to question him, she says, 'I pray you speak not / ...Question enrages him.' I also believe that in the back of Macbeth's mind he knows that if he makes a mistake or loses his control during his tyrannous reign, such as in the banquet scene, her control will be there to back him up and save the situation, so perhaps if she had not been there Macbeth would not have reigned in the same manner. Once she is dead he does not have this to fall back on, but it is too late to retract his actions and he has gone so far that he has tunnel vision towards absolute power and he can only continue. In conclusion, I believe that although Lady Macbeth catalysed the actions of Macbeth to kill Duncan and become king, they would have happened without her even if far more slowly. However she is a very important part of Macbeth's actions that followed, even though she is not consulted about them because it is she who persuades him to believe that what is done is done and it is the control and strength Macbeth knows she has that he can fall back on as he brutally follows his own ambition. Whatever the distance between them, she is a part of him and so when she dies, something is missing from his life even though he does not realise it as he has become so obsessed with his own quest for power. Therefore the tragic ending is the only one possible when the relationship breaks down and consequently Lady Macbeth dies. ...read more.

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