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The Tragic Flaws of Macbeth

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Introduction

The Tragic Flaws of Macbeth In The Poetics, Aristotle thoroughly analyzes Greek tragedies and comes to a conclusion that tragic dramas should involve a heroic protagonist with a vulnerable weakness or frailty. This weakness is known as hamartia, or more commonly called the "tragic flaw." The protagonist's hamartia hinders the person's progress and through a series of events, ultimately leads to the protagonist's downfall. Although Aristotle used the word hamartia for Greek tragedy, it can be found in many later works of literature, such as William Shakespeare's Macbeth. In this play about a Scottish king, the unfortunate character Macbeth carries the tragic flaw, or rather, flaws, which involve his tremendous guilt, ambition, and his gullibility, that lead him to his downfall. Shakespeare does a magnificent job by using Macbeth to show the terrible consequences that can result from an unchecked ambition and a guilty conscience. Those elements, combined with a lack of strong character, distinguish Macbeth from Shakespeare's other tragic heroes, such as King Lear and Richard III, both of whom are strong enough to overcome their guilty conscience. ...read more.

Middle

Macbeth's judgment is impaired since he only agrees to the ideas that will benefit him in obtaining his desires. In his twenty-eight lined soliloquy, Macbeth expresses his doubts and fears about killing Duncan, and admits that the only thing motivating him to do so is his "vaulting ambition. (I. vii. 27)" Macbeth also claims that he has already gone so far that stopping his murderous acts is now not an option; he must continue doing what he's doing: "I am in blood, stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er. (III. iv. 135-137)" His dangerous ambition seems to have no boundaries and he does whatever it takes to secure his place to the throne. At the opening of the play, the three witches prophesy to Macbeth and Banquo that Banquo will be the "father" of many kings. Upon remembering this event, Macbeth becomes uneasy and feels that "to be thus (or king) ...read more.

Conclusion

The witches convince Macbeth that he will not be killed by a person who was not woman-born, which causes Macbeth to think he is invincible: "Laugh to scorn the pow'r of man, for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth. (IV. i. 79-81)" This act of easily believing what the witches prophesied eventually leads Macbeth to his death when Macduff, who was "ripped from his mother's womb," stabs Macbeth in the battlefield at the end of the play. Unlike many other heroes in classic literature, whose flaws involve arrogance and pride, Macbeth's ambitious nature is was not exactly harmful or considered a bad thing in any way until his uncontrolled ambition and inability to remain emotionally tough after committing the crimes was met with his gullibility. This fatal combination turned Macbeth into almost a madman, motivated solely by lust for fame and power. It is exactly his great ambition and extreme gullibility that ultimately leads him to his demise. Macbeth, an individual who started out at the beginning as an honest and loyal soldier, becomes a murderous human being because of his flaws in character, thus making this play one of the greatest tragedies in the world of literature. ...read more.

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