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Macbeth: Tragic Hero or Villain?

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Introduction

Macbeth: Tragic Hero or Villain? He murdered his friends, he committed treason, he consulted witches and saw ghosts, but is Macbeth really a villain, or is he a tragic hero who is lead astray by powerful forces of nature? The Shakespearean tragedy 'Macbeth' is all about a heroic thane who becomes corrupted in his chase for power. At the start of the book he valiantly wins a battle at the head of his army, by the end of the book he is cowering in his castle as vengeful countrymen he has betrayed surround it. This essay will show that Macbeth's ambition will lead him to to gradually become more and more evil until he meets his downfall. Ironically, the play opens with King Duncan of Scotland welcoming back Macbeth from a battle, which Scotland would have lost if it had not been for Macbeth. Little does he know the next person Macbeth will kill will be himself. The king has tears of joy in his eyes as he praises Macbeth and Banquo: "For brave Macbeth - well he deserved that name" And: "They smack of honour both" Duncan respects Macbeth and shows that, at the start of the play at least, Macbeth is good and not evil. ...read more.

Middle

Macbeth is starting to become an evil character rather than a good character. As yet he is not fully evil, but he comes ever closer to committing the worst crime possible in his era - treason. But Macbeth is not entirely sure he has to murder Macbeth to become king: "If chance will have me king, why Chance may crown me Without my stir." Macbeth's instant trust of the witches is surely not typical of a hero or good man. Even early on Macbeth's evil character is evident in all his actions and thoughts. Macbeth confides in his wife his thoughts and feelings about the potential murder of Duncan. Lady Macbeth immediately decides Duncan must go if Macbeth is to become king and goes about setting up his murder. It is obvious that the real power in the household lies with Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth doesn't hesitate long before carrying out her bidding even though he is not sure about the idea himself. King Duncan comes to stay at Macbeth's castle, irony is present again; Duncan believes the castle to be safe and friendly: "This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself Unto our gentle senses." Later on the same night Macbeth is creeping along the corridor on the way to murder Duncan. ...read more.

Conclusion

Macbeth is becoming more evil and is getting used to killing. This attempted murder ultimately leads to his downfall however, Macduff suspects Macbeth and worrying, he wastes no time in fleeing to England. There he learns that his family were all killed by Macbeth, and raises an army to fight and kill Macbeth. Macbeth is feeling safe however: the witches told him that no man born of natural birth shall harm him, and that he will not be killed until the forests of Birnam move. He locks himself in his castle and awaits an attack that he feels sure he can win. Macduff plans his attack well, telling his army to cut down branches from a nearby forest to use as camouflage. The army approaches the castle, the forests of Birnam have moved. Macbeth is fooled by the strategy and his castle is taken by surprise. The castle is quickly defeated and Macduff enters to fight Macbeth in hand-to-hand combat. Macbeth's confidence in the witches lasts until the very last minute of the battle, when Macduff reveals that he was born by caesarean section. Macbeth's trust in witches, coupled with his overwhelming will to kill, has led to his downfall. How anyone can think someone who has killed his monarch, killed his best friend and killed innocent people to be any type of hero at all is beyond me. Macbeth is most certainly a villain, not a tragic hero. ...read more.

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