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Macbeth - Shakespearean Analysis

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GCSE Coursework: Macbeth - Shakespearean Analysis To what extent is Macbeth portrayed as a tragic hero with whom the audience sympathises? A Shakespearean tragic hero according to Aristotle is usually a prominent figure, who happens to have distinctive flaws in their personality. Because of these flaws, and to a certain extent the influence of external force and or an 'evil' antagonist the character will experience a fall from prominence that will eventually lead to his suffering and often to his death. In Macbeth's case, his fatal flaws are his impressionability, greed and most importantly his "vaulting ambition" and hubristic character. There is no direct antagonist in the play, but Macbeth is influenced to murder by both the Witches and Lady Macbeth to an extent. We see the degeneration of a valiant soldier, 'Noble Macbeth' to a vicious murderer, 'this dead butcher'. However, is Macbeth seen by the audience in a sympathetic light? The audience could take the view that Macbeth is not responsible for his deeds and that he was manipulated into committing them through external forces. It could be argued unsympathetically that the witches chose him precisely because of his flaws and through this he acts of his free will. This essay will examine to what extent Macbeth is truly responsible for his actions, and equally to what extent the audience perceives him as a tragic hero. The first scene begins with the witches making mysterious predictions about their future meeting with Macbeth, 'when the battles lost and won', immediately creating a sense of uncertainty and suggesting that events can be interpreted in different ways. This intrigues and even frightens the audience, possibly suggesting that the witches might have supernatural powers. The initial presentation of Macbeth in the following scene is of a valiant and courageous soldier and loyal thane, as stated, 'for brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name'. The word 'brave' along with other description imply his being greatly respected by the king; 'O valiant cousin, worthy gentleman', so the audience would be expecting a figure of great loyalty to the king. ...read more.


The soliloquy ends as he draws back to his only motive, 'but only vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself'. His second soliloquy comes when he is on the verge of committing the murder, having been totally persuaded by Lady Macbeth. We are shown the state of his troubled mind when he begins to hallucinate of a bloody dagger; 'is this a dagger I see before me?' He is haunted by the deed and this shows the murder is totally forefront of his mind. 'Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as sight?' shows his feeling not only of panic, but also oppression by the mere prospect of the deed. Again the audience would feel sympathetic towards him. He questions his sanity 'mine eyes are made fools o'th'other senses' whilst equally being haunted by the vicious reality of what he knows is going to do. He also talks, importantly of the power, which the witches have over him as discussed previously 'wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep'. The audience feels sympathetic towards Macbeth after he has actually committed the deed. Shakespeare uses metaphors for eternal damnation and very strong imagery concerning his guilt. Macbeth is racked with guilt and feels very confused. He describes his inability to say 'amen' when they said 'god bless us'. He also hears a voice, 'I thought I heard a voice cry, sleep no more: Macbeth doth murder sleep.' At the time this would have drawn a great deal of sympathy, being signs of eternal damnation. Being unable to sleep was a sign of the devil inside someone, which would remind the audience of the witch's comments when they first met with Macbeth. When talking of a captain the witch states, 'sleep shall neither night nor day... though bark cannot be lot yet it shall be tempest tossed.' This is clearly a metaphorical reference to the Macbeth's damnation, predicting how his kingdom will come to turmoil under his 'captaincy'. ...read more.


It seems, in my mind that had he not, he would not have even had thoughts of this nature. I feel the play is written in a way that tends to hint towards the witches having some control over the happenings throughout. I feel as if Shakespeare intended to leave us with the feeling that the witches were willing the tragic events to happen as they did. There also lies the possibility that the witches, although not a fabrication of Macbeth's thoughts (Banquo sees them as well), act as a means by which Shakespeare can show the audience what might lie in a man's mind if presented with a certain situation and equally a means to bring out the murderous side of Macbeth. In addition, his wife, who likewise immediately thinks of murdering the king, urges Macbeth to commit the deed, playing off his ambition and negative views of himself. One cannot, however, ignore that Macbeth almost immediately ventures upon the idea of murder. This reflects Macbeth's ambition, which in this case comes through most strikingly as a flaw. There is little to question that Macbeth is responsible for his actions especially those after he murders Duncan, but I feel most importantly, that it is only due to outside forces that firstly the prospect of murder arises, and secondly he ends up committing it in the last, and continuing in the way he did. After the first murder, Macbeth acts of his own accord and loses, to an extent, the audiences' sympathy. Macbeth appears to have suffered to a large extent, after his effective fall from grace. This suffering is portrayed through his constant anguish and terrible guilt and eternal battle with his conscience. This, in addition to the final twist in the play seems, in a sense to be the God's retribution. This nemesis - the betrayal of Macbeth's trust and predictions, culminating in his eventual death, brings the tale to a conclusion as a tragedy. It equally demonstrates the extent to which Macbeth is a tragic hero. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alexander Phillips 10/11/03 ...read more.

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