Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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The following excerpt from "The Tragic Hero: From Oedipus to Batman" implies that the character Macbeth is similar to the character Oedipus in Oedipus the King by Sophocles:  Earlier in the story, he gets in a fight with a man riding a chariot, which ends in the man's death. Oedipus doesn't know it, but the stranger he kills is King Laius of Thebes. What Oedipus also doesn't know is that King Laius is his father. You see, Oedipus was abandoned as a baby and grew up in a different city, never knowing his parents. In fact, once he makes it to Thebes, the people are so thankful the Sphinx is gone that they decide to make him king, so he marries Queen Jocasta, who just happens to be his mother.   In your response, argue that Macbeth's tragic hero status is actually different from Oedipus's.

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As the other answers indicate, Oedipus killed his father unknowingly, while Macbeth knew exactly what he was doing in his premeditated murder of Duncan. Oedipus was, in fact, trying to flee the prophecy when he left Corinth and met his father on the road to Thebes. Macbeth almost backs out of his murderous plan, but at his wife's urging plunges forward.

However, what these different beginnings lead to is the key difference in the two men's tragic trajectories: Oedipus moves from pride and blindness to humility and virtue. Macbeth moves in the opposite direction, from decency, courage, and conscience to become a hardened tyrant filled with bitterness and despair. Oedipus, through tragedy, moves from vice to virtue. Macbeth, in contrast, moves from virtue to vice. Macbeth creates tragedy through a consciously evil act and multiplies it until he is dehumanized and without insight. Oedipus blinds himself but gains humanity and insight.

Oedipus as tragic hero teaches us we should cultivate humility...

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