Macbeth Tragic Hero Research Paper

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Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher, the student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great. Famous for his philosophies and scientific discoveries, he defined a “tragedy” as prose which depicts the downfall of a noble person through a combination of hubris, fate and the will of the gods. The tragic hero (the protagonist of a tragedy) would generally be well-off at the beginning, with strong ambition to achieve a goal, with obstacles in between them and it (usually supernatural). They would not be clearly defined as either good or bad. Some sort of flaw or mistake would contribute to their inevitable downfall. They would have a change in world view or perspective at the end. Macbeth, the titular character of Shakespeare’s…show more content…
He has flaws (paranoia) which makes him dig a deeper moral hole through the play, and at the end, he looks back with remorse on what he had committed and sees no meaning in life. These are all elements of an Aristotelian tragic hero. When the play begins, Macbeth, the thane of Glamis, has a desire to be the king, but this desire is not a passionate one. He is moral and too timid to go against his nature to seize power. It is more of an “it-would-be-nice” situation, a daydream. He would like to rule Scotland, but he knows doing this requires murdering Duncan, which is against his moral code. This predicament sets him up to be a perfect fit for the portion of Aristotle’s definition of the initially noble and well-off person with ambitions and obstacles. Macbeth’s timidness and morality changes after three witches (a supernatural force, as Aristotelian tragedies tend to employ) hail him as the future king of Scotland. Fueled by this prediction, he and his wife immediately start plotting to seize power, and kill Duncan under their roof, resulting in Macbeth’s subsequent repression of his true, moral nature and his descent into…show more content…
He represses these feelings as Lady Macbeth had done earlier, and he accelerates his deteriorating psychological condition, going to further and further means to make himself feel secure and succumbing to paranoia. He first frames Malcolm and Donalbain, then eventually goes so far as to send two murderers to kill Banquo (his close friend) and Fleance (Banquo’s son). He even sends an extra murderer when he becomes anxious about the success of the crime. Some even interpret the third murderer as being Macbeth in disguise, which is even more telling of his disorder. This change in nature and susceptibility to paranoia is also a fit for Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, being flawed and changing. Later, Lady Macbeth stops repressing her guilt and morality and is overcome with remorse, killing herself. She precedes and mirrors Macbeth’s fall into madness. Macbeth goes through the same pattern of no longer repressing his guilt and basically gives up on life, calling it empty and meaningless, another element of a tragic hero as defined by Aristotle. Macbeth was a grey character. He was neither good nor bad, but he was ambitious.

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