How does Shakespeare portray Macbeth as a hero or a tragic hero?

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In light of all the terrible acts Macbeth commits during the play, it's easy to forget that he is actually a tragic hero. Indeed, before he begins murdering his way to the throne of Scotland, Macbeth is a widely respected and admired warrior renowned for his bravery in battle. For...

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In light of all the terrible acts Macbeth commits during the play, it's easy to forget that he is actually a tragic hero. Indeed, before he begins murdering his way to the throne of Scotland, Macbeth is a widely respected and admired warrior renowned for his bravery in battle. For an example of this heroism, take a look at this speech from a sergeant in the Scottish army during Act 1, Scene 2:

For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valor's minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave,
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements. (18-25)

In this excerpt, the sergeant recounts Macbeth's prowess on the battlefield, focusing especially on Macbeth's battle with and defeat of the rebel Macdonwald. Based on this testimony, it's plain that Macbeth begins the play as an honorable hero worthy of the admiration that he receives. Shakespeare's portrayal of him as a tragic hero, therefore, relies on the disintegration of Macbeth's character throughout the course of the rest of the play. Indeed, by the time Macduff kills Macbeth, we've forgotten that the Scottish king was ever considered a hero, as his evil acts have entirely eclipsed his former bravery. It's this fact that truly makes Macbeth a true tragic hero. 

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