Aristotle defines tragedy as a composition of many attributes. For instance, tragedy must be made through action rather than narrative, meaning the series of events rather than the story itself must be in a sense tragic; pitiful and made of fear, in order for it to be a tragedy. A string of events that all inevitably lead to a unpredictable yet believable ending, as well as the purification of actions, or the “re established goodness,” must be prevalent in order for tragedy to be displayed. However, a tragic hero is made up of tragic flaws, a flaw in judgement, which contributes to their actions leading to their demise. Macbeth is a originally a character of good, a brave, noble and respected man.
His character later develops a sense of vulnerability and excessive ambition resulting in the tragedy which is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Through his actions, Macbeth fulfills his role as a tragic hero through flaws in character as well as the conformation of good in his death. Macbeth is introduced as a powerful man, better than most and valued in society. Serving as the Thane of Cawdor, he holds a powerful figure in most civilians lives. When the weird sisters approach him with a prophecy claiming he will be king and that Banquo’s children will also hail after Macbeth, Macbeth’s reaction alters the amount of respect the audience holds for his character, and it begins to diminish.
Macbeth becomes overbearing of his power, and loses confidence in his abilities resulting in his vulnerability. This is displayed in Act 1 Scene 3, when Macbeth turns to Banquo to ask him what he thinks of the prophecies coming true. Banquo’s response, “That, trusted home,Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,Besides the thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange.And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,The instruments of darkness tell us truths,Win us with honest trifles, to betray ’sIn deepest consequence,” confirms not only Macbeth’s determination, but his fear of losing that power as well. Banquo’s account of half truths shown through prophecy also sparks fear in Macbeth, if it is not the whole truth, then how can he ensure his promised positions? Now that his fate has promised him the crown, his mindset turns from good ambition to power hungry fear.
His first action of impressionable ambition is displayed in the murder of Duncan, someone who was loyal to Macbeth, and valued him in his nobility became a threat when in reality he was nothing but an admirable friend. Macbeth’s lack of security in his actions allows his wife and the witches to serve as the prevoking member in his life. Macbeth even says, “The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be/Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” He is afraid of himself, and allows for his tragic character flaw to carry out the action that will inevitably lead to his decline in moral goodness. As the play continues, Macbeth furthers his actions of evil. Instead of allowing fate to take course, Macbeth’s inherent inability to trust destiny blinds him of the true intention of his ambitions. He mindlessly holds onto the idea of these prophecies and will do anything in his power to keep his position.
Throughout the play, however, he is reminded of the evils he has committed, and although he constantly begs for “eyes not to see his evils,” he is often faced with emotional consequences of his actions. His flaw in character consistently prevents him from being able to distinguish right from wrong due to his focused mindset. This is best displayed in Act 4, scene 1 after Macbeth is told that he should “Laugh to scorn/The power of man, for none of woman born/Shall harm Macbeth,” and that “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until/Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/Shall come against him.” Macbeth assumes that neither of these events will ever be able to occur, reassuring him that his fate was in fact secure.
However, in Act 5, one of these prophecies are proven true. Banquo’s aforementioned response to Macbeth, claiming the spirits may not be telling the whole truth, only parts, is proven here yet again. Macbeth lets his faith in the witches dictate his wrongful actions. In the final scene, Act 5, Scene 8, Macbeth is faced with his demise, as well as the inevitable reality; “Despair thy charm, and let the angel whom thou still hast served/Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb/Untimely ripped.”
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