What is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw


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Macbeth was a Tragic Hero and had many Tragic Flaws. Find out which flaws were consider most important and most tragic based on essays written by other students.

What is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw The role of a tragic hero is commonplace in many of Shakespeare’s works. The character of Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to Macbeth being labelled as a tragic hero. Before these factors can be discussed, it is important to understand what workings make up the characteristics of a tragic hero. Typically, a tragic hero is a figure of high stature, often of noble background. This person is predominantly good, but suffers a self-inflicted falling out due to flaws in their personality. The tragic hero has a tremendous downfall, brought about by their hamartia. The character reaches an anagnorisis, a critical discovery that completely alters the predicament they are in, often after they are already trapped in the situation. Finally, a Shakespearean tragic hero will lose their life in the end of the play so the message of what is good in the play can be reestablished. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the title figure of the play can be seen as a tragic hero.

Early on in the play, Macbeth is established as being of great stature. He has already earned the title of Thane of Glamis, and as prophesized by the three witches, will soon take reign as the Thane of Cawdor. These titles indicate that Macbeth is of great political importance, and is moving up in the ranks of Scottish nobility. In Act 1, Scene 2, Duncan addresses Macbeth as, “…valiant cousin, worthy gentleman!” and later as a “Worthy Thane”. The manner in which the leaders of his country speak about Macbeth truly shows his respectable and honorable nature. Duncan speaks highly of Macbeth,; unaware of the destiny Macbeth will later impose on him.

Macbeth’s blind ambition, along with the provoking of his wife, leads him to take a violent and bloody path to the throne. Following the format of a tragic hero, Macbeth suffers from a tragic flaw. He has multiple flaws in character, the most prominent being his vaulting ambition and his impressionability. After the witches told Macbeth about his bright future of nobility in Scotland, his honorable nature seemed to fade, and was soon replaced by a “by any means necessary” attitude. His lust for power, along with persuasive words from Lady Macbeth, led to him murdering King Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland, which led to extreme paranoia, fearing anyone with a noble bloodline as a threat to his power. By the end of the play, four deaths can be attributed to Macbeth’s name, all murdered in hopes of protecting his kingship. His ambition blinds him from seeing the destructive path he has created, ruling as a tyrant rather than a noble king. His easily impressionable nature causes him to not form his own thoughts, but rather listen to the words of Lady Macbeth and the three witches. These tragic flaws go on to play a major role in Macbeth’s demise.

Macbeth’s tragic flaws lead him to become a tyrant, who is quickly removed from power by the Scottish people. With the bloody path he had made for himself, his fall from power was inevitable. Macbeth’s bloody actions ended with him having to fear for his own life, as thousands in Scotland wanted him dead. Macbeth was aware that his evil deeds would lead to people wanting revenge. However, he did not fear these people, as he fell for the deceptive words of the witches. The three witches told him to be bold and fearless, that no man born of a woman could defeat him, and that he will never be defeated until the trees of Great Birnam Wood attack Dunsinane. Macbeth saw both of these things as impossible, so he did little to protect his castle. He was surprised when he was told that the forest was indeed attacking his castle, which was actually Macduff’s army carrying branches as a means of camouflage. His true anagnorisis came during his battle with Macduff, where Macduff revealed he was not born of woman, rather he was ripped form his mother’s womb, implying a Caesarean section. In this moment Macbeth was enlightened about his vulnerability. Macduff goes on to behead Macbeth, ensuring that his own family did not die in vain. With his death, Macbeth solidifies himself as a tragic hero. The audience learns the dangers of ambition, and good is reestablished.

Macbeth fits every characteristic of a Greek and Shakespearean tragic hero. The audience gets to see the full cycle of a rise to power, followed by a great demise. His ambition leads to his degeneration as a character which resulted in his ultimate downfall, death. Macbeth displays all the characteristics of a tragic hero, making him an infamous character in Shakespeare’s time as well as present day.

What is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw

What is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw

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Macbeth’s Tragic Flaw



“(Sometimes a tragic hero is created, not through his own villainy), but rather through some flaw in him, he being one of those who are in high station and good fortune, like Oedipus and Thyestes and the famous men of such families as those. ” (Poetics, Aristotle). Every great tragedy is dominated by a protagonist who has within himself a tragic flaw, too much or too little of one of Aristotle’s twelve virtues. In Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Macbeth, a great Scottish general and thane of Glamis, has just won an important battle, when he is told by three witches that he will become hane of Cawdor and then king of Scotland.

After Macbeth is given Cawdor by King Duncan, he takes the witches words for truth and conspires against Duncan with his wife. When Duncan comes to Macbeth’s castle that night, Macbeth kills him and takes the crown for himself after Duncan’s sons flee from Scotland. Then Macbeth reigns for a while, has several people killed, and is eventually slain by Macduff when he and Malcolm return leading the armies of England. Often people read the play and automatically conclude that Macbeth’s tragic flaw is his ambition; that he is compelled to commit o many acts of violence by his lust for power.
However, by carefully examining the first act, one can determine the defect in Macbeth’s character that creates his ambition; his true tragic flaw. Macbeth’s tragic flaw is not his ambition as most people believe, but rather his trust in the words of the witches and in his wife’s decisions. At the beginning of the play Macbeth has no designs on the throne, and he does not start plotting until his wife comes up with a plan. When first faced with the witches’ words, Macbeth expresses astonishment and isbelief rather than welcoming them when he says, “… o be King stands not within the prospect of belief, no more than to be Cawdor…. “(1. 3. 73-75). When confronted with the witches’ proclamation that he is to be king, Macbeth responds as a loyal subject would; not as a man with secret aspirations in his heart. He has no reason to hide his true feelings at this point so therefore it can be assumed that Macbeth has not yet truly considered killing the king.

Even after the first of the witches’ predictions comes true, Macbeth does not plot against the king but instead decides to leave it to chance. (Aside) If chance will have me King, why, chance may crown me, Without my stir. “(1. 3. 143-144). Macbeth has already been granted the title of thane of Cawdor, but still he acts as though a loyal subject would. His lack of ambition is stressed here by the fact that the actor is speaking the thoughts of the character rather than words that the character says aloud. It is Macbeth’s wife that decides to convince her husband to kill Duncan after she has learned what has happened, “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and halt be what thou art promised.
Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way. “(1. 5. 14-17) Lady Macbeth is saying that her husband is too kind to kill the king but that he will get what has been promised to him. She goes on to say that she will bring him around to her way of thinking. So obviously, Macbeth himself is not excessively ambitious, he has no desire to kill Duncan until Lady Macbeth plants the thought within his heart. Macbeth’s true tragic flaw, the force behind his ambition, is his ullibility, his willingness to trust the witches and his wife; no matter how terrible their ideas may be.

By the end of the fourth scene Macbeth is already beginning to acknowledge the witches’ words as truth after Malcolm becomes Prince of Cumberland, the heir to throne, “(Aside) The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step on which I must fall down or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. “(1. 4. 48-50) Less than a day has passed, and already Macbeth is beginning to believe in the words of the witches, Satan’s representatives on Earth. Despite centuries of tradition that tells Macbeth hat witches are evil, and therefore lie, he is already thinking that what they say is true.
While talking with his wife about her plans, Macbeth says, “We will proceed no further in this business… “(1. 7. 31), and then, less than fifty lines later, they are working out the details of their nefarious scheme. Macbeth quickly accedes to his wife’s wishes, displaying his willingness to trust his destiny in the hands of others. If Macbeth had not placed so much trust in his wife and in the witches, perhaps he would not have become ambitious and killed a man he loved and admired.

His gullibility is his true tragic flaw as it is the cause of his ambition and the weakness that allows evil to take root in his soul. Macbeth’s ambition is not the fatal flaw within his character, but rather that which leads to his ambition; his trustful nature. This is evident in that he does not desire the throne until after he finally accepts the predictions of the witches as truth; and he does not want to kill the king until after his wife convinces him that he should. If Macbeth had not trusted the emissaries of Satan, then he never would have considered killing
Duncan and would have been satisfied with being thane of Glamis and Cawdor. And if he had not trusted his wife, Macbeth would not have killed a man he loved and revered, an act that eventually led to his downfall. Not everybody in this world can be trusted, there are too many people who are only looking out for their own best interests. While one should not become paranoid and trust nobody, lest they become cut off from society, safeguards must be established against these fraudulent people so that they cannot take advantage of an unprepared populace.

What is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw

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