Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Macbeth as a tragic hero

Macbeth was a true Shakespearean tragic hero. He had many noble qualities as well as several tragic flaws. He was a courageous, brave and good nobleman who was haunted by superstition, moral cowardice and an overwhelming ambition. The three points which contribute greatly to Macbeth’s degeneration are the prophecy which was told to him by the witches, Lady Macbeth influenced and manipulated Macbeth’s judgment, and finally Macbeth’s long time ambition which drove his desire to be king. Although he was so far courageous and brave and he is seen as the hero at the beginning of the play, his sky high ambition causes his damnation. And ultimately he becomes a tragic hero.

Macbeth was a courageous and strong nobleman. He and Banquo were leaders of King Duncan's army. His personal powers and strength as a general won him the battle as described by the captain,
"But all's too weak:/For brave Macbeth -- well he deserved that name – /Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel,/Which smoked with bloody execution,/Like valor's minion carved out his passage/Till he faced the slave;".(I,2)Macbeth was even undiscouraged when he was attacked by the King of Norway, "assisted by that most disloyal traitor, the thane of Cawdor. "Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to murder Duncan by putting his manhood and courage at stake, "When you durst do it, then you were a man;/And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man" (I,7 )As Macbeth started degrading he lost some bravery (IV, 1, "That I may tell pale-hearted fear it lies"). In his fight with Macduff, some of his old courage and strength returned.

Macbeth could be brave when it came to action but when he started thinking he would hesitate and would have to be urged into action by his wife or by the sense of security that he obtained from the prophecies of the supernatural. He changed his mind five times before murdering Duncan. The witches' prophecy that he would be king made him decide to leave it to "chance," but Duncan's announcement that Malcolm was to be his heir made Macbeth realize that he would have to take a course of action for the prophecies to come true. He changed his mind again before he reached home until his wife persuaded him that it could be done safely. Then he changed his mind again before finally being forced by Lady Macbeth to make up his mind to commit the murder. Macbeth also did not fear the moral consequences of his crimes (I,7, "We'd jump the life to come"). After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth sinks into continuous moral degradation. He was in a savage frenzy when he planned the murder of Banquo and Macduff's family.

Macbeth had great ambition and wished to stand well with the world. He had absolutely no feelings for others and he only cared about what others would think of him. The witches' prophecies only encouraged this ambition to be king. The witches who symbolized Macbeth's evil ambitions put his thoughts into actual words. The idea of murder had already occurred to him,"My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical," (I,3). Macbeth himself acknowledged his "vaulting ambition" that would drive him to murder after Duncan evaded fate (I,3, "If chance will have me King, why,/ Chance may crown me") by announcing Malcolm as his Successor. And he himself announces his “black and deep desires” to become king.

The idea of killing Duncan first came from Macbeth. Macbeth listened to the witches’ prophecies that said he would become King. Macbeth did not want to wait any longer and he thought the only way to become King was to kill the present King; Duncan. Macbeth later told Lady Macbeth about this and she just wanted to help him and do whatever she could for him, so that he would be happy and be King. She was also excited about becoming a Queen so she pushed Macbeth forward and did not let him back down from doing what he said he'd do. Macbeth had a good chance of becoming King if Duncan was out of the picture, so Lady Macbeth helped stage a plan so that Macbeth could kill him without being caught.

Macbeth's powerful imagination made him already victim to superstition. It was his superstition that made him so unquestioningly the promises of the apparitions and rest so easily assured. It was all his superstitions that made him cling to his belief in these promises when circumstances became difficult. His imagination was so strong that when it was left to roam uncontrolled his "function/ Is smother'd in surmise." This was seen in the "dagger" scene and in the panic which Macbeth suffers after the murder of Duncan. This was also seen with Banquo's ghost at the banquet.

Macbeth loved his wife very much. At the beginning of the play she participated avidly in his life and he informed her of everything that was going on (for example he sent her a letter telling her of the witches' prophecies). He widely accepted her advice and ideas and they were both avid partners in the murder of Duncan. Macbeth was very affectionate with his wife and when he was speaking to her he often used words of endearment (“Dearest love," "Dearest chuck" and "Sweet remembrancer"). At the end, he was so weary from everything that was going on that when he received the news of his wife's death he accepted it with only a yearning resignation. Macbeth's whole story after Duncan's murder was one of continuous character deterioration. Once he had begun his life of crime he became further and further detached from his wife to the point where she had lost all control over him. He had become so accustomed to violence that he did not hesitate at all in the planning of Banquo and Fleance's murder ("The very firstling of my heart shall be/ The very firstling of my hand").

Macbeth started as a courageous and brave general who loved his wife very much. But because of the faults that must accompany every tragic hero, he was led to his ruin by his overwhelming ambition, superstition and moral cowardice. Macbeth changed from a noble hailed as the savior of his country, a "valiant cousin," a "worthy gentleman," to a man of boundless cruelty. So we can say that his sky high ambition causes his damnation.

1 comment:

Darian Alejandro said...

Is this a true statment,if it is great job