What flaw(s) do you think account for Macbeth's fall?Macbeth brings down tragedy upon himself and his family. What flaw(s) do you think accounts for his fall?

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shauger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth's famous ambition certainly is his largest flaw, although in some ways his willingness to do whatever needed to be done probably helped make him a good soldier.

He also is superstitious, believing the witches' prophesies (probably because it is what he wanted to hear.) Although belief in witches was common in Shakespeare's time, if we look to the character of Banquo, we see that not everyone bought into it... or at least in Banquo's case there was a consideration of the source of the information. Remember, Banquo reminds Macbeth that the witches will lie to him to win him over - only in the end to "betray" him.

Macbeth is imaginative - which doesn't seem like it should be a flaw- but it DOES allow him to see and hear things that aren't there (the voice that says he has murdered sleep, the dagger, the dead Banquo).

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lack of self worth in Macbeth is certainly worth the time and effort of examination.  If he were more in tune with his place of honor and respect as an able warrior, a loyal thane to Duncan, and worthy family member and husband, he would not have succumbed to his wife's insistance that they murder the king.  We must admit that without her constant prattling about "are you a man?" he would not have acted on his impulses first planted by the witches' prophecy.  He would have waited...perhaps not patiently...for the honor to come to him in normal time--not catapulted himself to the head of the table before he was meant to be there.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe one of his deepest flaws is a lack of self worth. He was commended for his prowess on the battle fields-made the new Thane of Cawdor, but it was not enough. He obviously felt no pride at this, and only being the highest leader would make him happy. Something inside of him felt he was not good enough.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The one that immediately comes to mind is a lust for power. The moment he hears the words Macbeth and King in the same sentence, his is consumed by his ambition. However, I suspect that other flaws that other contributors can mention are more interesting and less obvious...

joscei | Student

Part 4:


Going on the three witches entice  Macbeth to believe that Macduff is here to take what Macbeth self-righteously deserves.  Macbeth led astray once again by the three witches takes it upon himself to decide that it is prudent to have Macduff's family murdered.  To his own end, this forces Macbeth into a life and death struggle with Macduff who has gathered an army along side Malcolm to confront Macbeth.  

As Macduff confronts Macbeth who’s hope should have fastly been fading given his wife’s demise and the fleeting sunset of his own defense, Macbeth’s undaunted courage fueled by his ambition and driven mistakenly by the oxygen of guilt, clings naively to the three witches’ words  “none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth.”

I bear a charmed life, which must not yield (5.8.12)

To one of woman born

Despair thy charm,

And let the angel whom thou still hast served

Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb

Untimely ripped.


The Tragedy of Macbeth.  Courage few others had.  Ambition stoking his fire.  Guilt like the oxygen in an ocean beech breeze abruptly driving himself to self erupt.  Macbeth, who defeated Macdonwald, seized his own King’s crown, murdered his best friend Banquo, killed Lady Macduff and slaughtered her children.  Macbeth, slain by Mr. Macduff.

joscei | Student

Part 3:

Macbeth, a nobleman, a Scottish general in the king's army, who gained recognition himself through defeating Macdonwald, shortly thereafter encounters three witches who greet Macbeth sparkingly with even greater potential lights for ever greater grandeur.

Speak, if you can: what are you? (1.3.48)

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to the, Thane of Glamis!

All hail Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!

What else could possibly fuel the fire of courage that would take to dethrone your king but the blindness of ambition.  Speared on by his wife, Lady Macbeth, there is no doubt that this could only lead to the eventual demise of the King and all others at hand.

The fire of courage may have been deflagrated by the fuel of ambition, but it was quickly hastened as if in a wind swept ocean beach breeze by the universal oxygen of guilt.  After murdering the King and his attendants, disturbed by what three sisters prophesized about Banquo's descendants, Macbeth goes on to order that Banquo and Banquo's son be killed.  Haunted upon mixed news of the events throughout a banquet by Banquo's ghost, Macbeth’s mind stirs with guilt and how he will escape his fate.  To right his mind Macbeth takes homage with the three witches again only to mistakenly believe he may be immortal now to all those who are mortal.

Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn (4.1.79)

The pow’r of man, for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth

joscei | Student

Part 2:


People who know of him may say Macbeth's fatal flaw was his ambition, but simply to have ambition is not what drives a man to act.  No, it takes more than ambition, it takes courage itself.   Fore it is courage that makes a great warrior, that makes a man hardened, that drives him to reach the depths of ruthlessness necessary to outlast any battle, any adversary.  Unfortunately, outside times of battle, to survive courage must take on other forms than simply that which is necessary to kill or be killed.  There is no doubt to the depth of Macbeth’s courage.   Macbeth a brave and loyal soldier defending his country and King from any and all who would enslave the people and take the throne.  King Duncan, a proud as any parent could be, informed of the battlefield fight between his and the rebel forces led by Macdonwald where Macbeth met and killed the traitor Macdonwald in what can only be described as a horrible manner.

For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name -  (1.2.16)

Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,

Which smoked of bloody execution

Like valor’s minion carved out his passage

Till he faced the slave;

Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops,

And fixed his head upon our battlements.

The King, so pleased with Macbeth's performance, gives Macbeth the traitor's title, Thane of Cawdor, which stokes Macbeth’s fire with his innate fuel of ambition.

What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won (1.2.67)

joscei | Student

Part 1:


A tragedy.  A story in which a hero is ruined by a fatal flaw.  Often a flaw that somehow came to also be the character’s source of strength bringing great power and respect.  If only the character had maintained control, the plunge from power and deprivation of respect would not have become such a tragedy.  In Macbeth, the main character, Macbeth, is brought to ruin.  And done so tragically.  His death brought upon by himself from his own fatal flaw, namely courage.  To the misfortune of everyone, Macbeth’s flawed courage fired by the conflagrating fuel of ambition and windy oxygen of guilt brought ravishing destruction and chaos to his own Scottish brethren.

joscei | Student

I worked with one of my children a month ago on a paper regarding a potential flaw in Macbeth that we believe brought upon his tragedy.  We felt that his courage was his fatal flaw.  I'll paste the paper in separate postings momentarily(limited to 1500 characters per post) for your interest and enjoyment.