During the events of the play, a story is told about the villainous actions of a character named Macbeth. This character is shown committing heinous acts and is the enemy of every other character. However, after carefully analyzing the literary piece, it could be said that Macbeth is not the villain, but rather the victim of manipulation, false guidance, and a corrupt sense of morality. His behavior can only be described as that of a Tragic Hero.
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, created a Theory of tragedy in which the Hero of tragedy can neither be an evil or particularly righteous man, but instead a “character between these two extremes, …a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty.” Aristotle believed since the goal of a tragedy is to create a reaction of sorts, that goal would be easily met if an unfortunate event or set of events were to happen to a man with many connections to society such as a king or nobleman, instead of a person of irrelevance such as an everyday peasant or community farmer. The theory is further backed up as when a hero is of higher status his actions do not just affect himself but also his community, such as disrupting politics, creating war, or even the destruction of the whole kingdom.
Macbeth begins the play as a man of high status that had just recently displayed his feats as a skilled and brave warrior to King Duncan to earn his favor. His hard work in doing so rewarded him with the title Thane of Cawdor. Clearly meeting the requirements stated above, this allows the audience to admire him for his accomplishments and allots them the ability to relate to his desire to be king since ambition is a desire commonly shared between humans. However unbeknownst to the audience, Macbeth’s ambition and his desire for more is much stronger than that of the common man, so much so that it leads to him making a terrible mistake, this mistake being his allowance of letting his ambition run free blinding him to the immense immorality of Murdering King Duncan.
At the start of the play, it seemed Macbeth was a loyal subject to the king, however, upon hearing the prophecy set forth by the Three Witches, the temptation to ensure that he was king outshined his judgment of morality. Straight after hearing this prophecy, Macbeth was immediately informed on his new promotion to Thane of Cawdor. The average person here would be gleaming with joy, finally rewarded for their hard work, yet he remained unsatisfied. Despite what many may be thinking at this point, Macbeth does initially hesitate multiple times before putting his heinous plan into action. He attempted to put down any thoughts about killing King Duncan out of his mind as soon as they come up using arguments such as immorality, dishonorable, dishonesty, and friendship attempted to disregard Lady Macbeth’s repeated suggestions about seizing power. At one point, he even managed to change his mind entirely about carrying out the plan, however only for a moment, as lady Macbeth was able to easily talk him back into it.
At this point in the play, Macbeth is seen as a character fighting with his inner demons and is deserving of the audience’s sympathy. Most people in life have wanted something they did not have or discovered, once they got it, that they wanted more. Some of those people have even fantasized about committing criminal or immoral acts to achieve those goals. However, most people do not commit murder, as the consequences and impact in doing so are more than enough to make the actual participation in these plans undesirable. As the audience witnesses Macbeth act on his base desire, they excitedly watch as he does what they themselves cannot imagine actually doing.
After committing the crime, Macbeth begins to deviate from the audience in his morals as he begins to convince himself that he is special, that he is capable of being above the rule of society and can get away with anything he so chooses to do. It is prevalent for a person to think of doing ridiculous, crazy actions on occasion. However, the reason it is not common for somebody to commit these ridiculous actions is that these desires are usually kept in check by morality, and the knowledge that all actions will have consequences. Macbeth, losing this understanding under the ecstasy of getting away with King Duncan’s murder, loses this basic understanding. The Witches’ prophecies even further entertain these fables of superiority and arrogance. Macbeth came up with the idea and executed his plan in murdering Kung Duncan on his own; however, his choice to do so was heavily implicated by the witches and pressured into fruition by his wife’s urges. If in some alternative world where Macbeth did not meet the witches or had he found love in another woman, these set of events more than likely would have never occurred. In this sense, his inevitable end could not be avoided.
Macbeth’s base desires dictate his every move; he brings tyranny to his people. As a result, his brethren want him dead, and as Macbeth predicted, people want to exact their revenge upon his cursed soul. Despite these blatantly obvious facts, Macbeth foolishly believed The Witches, thinking himself to be immortal due to being bound by fate, and he left his castle unprotected and open to attack. Swiftly after these decisions, he was killed by one of his closest friends, dictating that all his previously favorable fortune has all but left.