A tragic hero is a character who makes a judgment error that ineluctably leads to their own demise. In the story, Macbeth written by William Shakespeare displays Macbeth's as a tragic hero through the use of characters such as Lady Macbeth and the witches in order to exemplify the internal and external conflicts of the character. Macbeth was considered a hero during the first battle against the Thane of Cawdor but, once the witches slightly gave him a glance at his prophecy he became corrupt and villainous with the ambition for more power, relaying the overall ideas of power being a corrupting force.
Macbeth’s fear and insanity are some of the internal conflicts that are a side effect from his ephemeral quest to become king. For example after Lady Macbeth's death Macbeth was not doleful and was unflinching, he believed that she would have died sooner or later. Maynard Mack illustrates Macbeth's feelings after Lady Macbeth's death by writing,“The time has been my senses would cooled to hear a night shriek, and fell of hair would at a dismissal treatsie rouse and stir as life were in’t. I have supped full of horrors Direness, familiar to my slaughterhouse thoughts, cannot once start me.” (Mack, Maynard 1) This communicates how Macbeth's conscious and morals have deteriorated as time progressed, as Macbeth extenuates his guilt by believing that their lives do not matter and wonders if he will join Lady Macbeth. Macbeth role as the tragic hero is portrayed by his actions of killing rivals which leaves him unfeeling, alone, and insane. Along with this quest for the throne, the thought of being killed in pursuit of this power made him more corrupt and schizophrenic. This made him fear many men including Macduff because of the witches waring which the witches state, “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff. Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.”(IV. I. 71-72) One of the apparition’s that the witches summoned warn Macbeth to be careful of Macduff due to his alliance with Malcom. Macduff's army attacks the despots castle. The pressure from the attack causes Macbeth to think about killing himself which highlights his insanity. Macbeth's internal conflicts reveal him to be the tragic hero that Shakespeare wants him to be, from feeling the pain of losing a loved one/friend, to being acquiesce with his wife's death, this what cements Macbeth as a tragic hero instead of a villain. His avarice made him became so fearful of losing it all to Banquo and Macduff that he would rather kill himself then die to another man. With these internal conflicts, the problems that were present in the physical world influenced him greatly.
The external conflicts Macbeth faces is aggressiveness which is to blame for Banquo’s death, while the threatening of his masculinity plays another role in the death of Duncan. An example of Macbeth's offensive action is exhibited in Act 3 where Macbeth speaks the words “to leave no rubs nor botches in the work Fleance, his son that keeps him company, whose absence is no less material to me Than his father’s.” (III. I. 134-137). This depicts how Macbeth's aggressiveness dictates who dies even if its his friend. In order to stay in power Macbeth hires murderers by threatening their masculinity to kills Banquo. Similar to what Macbeth did to the murders Duncan's death can be blamed on Lady Macbeth threatening Macbeth’s masculinity when he was dubious about his actions. Lady Macbeth browbeats macbeth by saying,”What beast was't, then, That made you break this enterprise to me?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. VII. 49-51) This exemplifies how lady Macbeth threatens Macbeth's masculinity which is ironic because during this time woman are typically viewed as both mentally and physically weaker than men. Lady Macbeth though is one of the rare woman who display’s strength at the beginning of the story. She exemplifies how she has more ambition than Macbeth to become king and queen. Her manipulation desecrated Macbeth's morals and in the end caused him to become a tragic hero.
The conflicts within or outside a person can pay a heavy toll on a life no matter their strength. Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a perfect example of a change of character from one point in time to another. From Macbeth being a well known and respected leader to crumbling under pressure and becoming corrupt and greedy. The dishearten kings fall can be blamed on his internal and external conflicts for the gain of more power which in the end lead him to become the tragic hero of the story.
- Mack, Maynard “Everybody Shakespeare; Reflection Chiefly on the Tragedies”, pp. 183-96 Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
- Shakespeare, William and john Crowther. No fear Shakespeare . Macbeth Spark, 2003.