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To what extent can Macbeth be considered a tragic hero?

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Introduction

"To what extent can Macbeth be considered a tragic hero?" You should show how Shakespeare uses language and plot to balance the audience's reaction. Macbeth's story is essentially a tragedy: the audience sees an honourable and respected man fall from his high position in Scottish society to the depths of murder, betrayal and deceit when gripped by his so-called "fatal flaw" of ambition. Taken at face value, this seems to be a very plausible argument for the tragic nature of Macbeth. However, if Macbeth's character is examined throughout the play, it can be seen that he is missing some of the vital characteristics of the tragic hero. Macbeth's ambition is not entirely responsible for his downfall. He is described as "brave Macbeth", a "valiant cousin" and a "worthy gentleman!" and it is difficult to believe that this strong, honourable man would be swayed solely by the predictions of some mad women who even Banquo suggests are the product of having "eaten on the insane root." ...read more.

Middle

However, at the same time the audience know that Macbeth ignored his conscience, because they saw it in his soliloquies, and they therefore condemn him more for knowing that he was doing wrong, but continuing nevertheless. If Macbeth had not shown his conscience, then the murder still would have remained wrong and the audience still would have condemned it. However, with little moral education and by not recognising the evil of his actions, he would have been easier to forgive because the blame could have been attributed wholly to the evil of the witches and the influence of his wife. Despite this, he does have a conscience and shows more and more disregard for human life during the course of the play. It is tragic when people cannot see what they are doing is wrong, but Macbeth flatly refuses to even look, and knowing the truth says "Stars hide your fires,/Let not light see my black and deep desires" in some effort to expel the murderous thoughts from his mind. ...read more.

Conclusion

the suffering then because he knew inside himself what he was doing was wrong, but refused to think any more about it and let the evil consume him. The audience, who may pity Macbeth because of his struggle with right and wrong, only really sympathise with him because they can feel in themselves that same struggle. They do not sympathise with him because of his seemingly "good" traits of honour and bravery, because they would feel insecure if such a good man were to be overrun so rapidly by evil. Instead of coming to terms with the evil that resides within them, the audience can externalise it, vindicating themselves in the process and balancing the evil on stage with the good that they feel within themselves after demonising the witches and attributing all the evil to them. Most importantly, Macbeth does have the classic fatal flaw, but it is tenuously linked to his downfall by the murder of Duncan, which was arguably carried out under some duress. To be classically tragic, it should be the direct cause, and not the catalyst for his demise. ...read more.

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