In Macbeth, what quotes represent the hubris, or Macbeth's excessive pride?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hubris in Macbeth is the result of his confidence in the witches' prophecies. Throughout the play, they tell him what he wants to hear, and as a result, he believes he is indestructible. He is especially taken by the prophecy that "no man of woman born" was capable of destroying him, and that he could not be defeated until "Birnam Wood" marched up the hill to his palace. He hangs his hat, as it were, on each of these cryptic statements, and it turns out that this is a big mistake. We see how confident he is at the beginning of Act V, Scene 3, when he says:

Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane
I cannot taint with fear. What's the boy Malcolm?
Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know
All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus:
“Fear not, Macbeth; no man that's born of woman
Shall e'er have power upon thee.” Then fly, false thanes,
And mingle with the English epicures!

He is stunned to learn, in Scene 5, that Birnam Wood is indeed advancing on Dunsinane. Malcolm's me, it turns out, have cut branches off of trees, and are marching on the palace carrying them in front of them to obscure their numbers. It looks like the forest itself is marching to destroy Macbeth. Shortly thereafter, he is still somewhat confident in his success when he says a line that turns out to be the height of hubris, telling Macduff that he has "a charmed life, which must not yield/To one of woman born." Macbeth replies that he, in fact, was not "of woman born," but was actually "untimely ripp'd." In other words, he was not born naturally, but by Caesarian section. So Macbeth's confidence in his "charmed life" and the witches' prophecies turned out to be completely misplaced. This is, in short, hubris.



kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth demonstrates hubris, or excessive pride, as early as Act I, not long after the witches have prophesied that he will become the king of Scotland one day. In this quote from Scene IV, for example, Macbeth talks about his "black and deep desires," a reference to his pride and ambition, and admits that he will go to any length to achieve his aims:

Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires.
The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.

Similarly, in Act I, Scene VII, Macbeth's hubris becomes his sole reason for killing King Duncan. In fact, in this quote, Macbeth accepts that it is nothing but "vaulting ambition" which inspires him to murder:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'er leaps itself
And falls on th' other.
Macbeth's hubris lingers to the very end of the play, even when he knows that his defeat is inevitable. In Act V, Scene VIII, for example, seconds before his death in battle, Macbeth refuses to surrender to his enemies and demonstrates that his pride is so excessive that he values it more highly than his own life:
I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.
amswain1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hubris can be considered more than excessive pride in a person. Hubris can also be too much ambition or even over confidence in a character.

Macbeth is a prime example of a man filled with pride, ambition and confidence. The reader sees this right from the start of the play. As soon as Macbeth is named Thane of Cawdor,fulfilling one of the witches prophesies, he begins to contemplate how to become king as the witches have suggested. The fact that he wants to be king, and kills to become king, shows his ambition.

The second set of prophesies allow the reader to examine Macbeth’s overconfidence. When the trees begin to march against him as the witches warned, Macbeth still believes that he will live. He leaves the castle with armor on his back and fights to keep his power. Even though the witches have tricked him once, he still believes he is invincible as the witches told him. He fails to think about the ways the witches have tricked him. This shows us that he is confident of his success, yet since he is eventually killed by Macduff, we can see that his confidence was misplaced (an example of hubris).

Hope this helps. Good luck!