What is a quote that shows hamartia, one that shows peripeteia and one that shows anagnorisis in Macbeth?I'm doing an essay trying to prove Macbeth was a tragic hero. These 3 words are my topics...

What is a quote that shows hamartia, one that shows peripeteia and one that shows anagnorisis in Macbeth?

I'm doing an essay trying to prove Macbeth was a tragic hero. These 3 words are my topics for the 3 body paragraphs and i need a quote, from the play, for each.

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a wonderful question! Here are examples of what you are looking for:


Let us begin with a definition of anagnorisis. This Greek term, used by Aristotle, exemplifies a time in a play where the protagonist comes to realize that something critical has happened.  This tends to include awareness and realization of the moment and the impact it will have in regard to other character's and the outcome for their life. An example of anagnorisis in Macbeth:

I'll go no more:/ I am afraid to think what I have done;/ Look on 't again I dare not. (II, ii, 51-53)

What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes!/ Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand? No. (II, ii, 62-64).


Again, developed by Aristotle (Poetics), hamartia is seen definable in many different ways.  It can be looked at as a sin or wrongdoing.  It has also been defined in Nicomachean Ethics (again by Aristotle) as being an injury one person commits against another.

An example of hamartia in Macbeth is:

To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself (II,ii, 78)

Here, Macbeth acknowledges that the murder of Duncan's chamberlains was a wrongdoing.  He does not even wish to look at who he really is because of how wrong he knows his actions are.


According to Dictionary.com, peripeteia is "a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work".  The sudden turn of events in Macbeth happens, again, when Macbeth emerges from the chamberlains’ bedroom. He realizes what he has done is wrong.  Macbeth, in he quest for the crown, realizes (only after he murders) that he is wrong in committing the murder.  Unfortunately, Macbeth must revisit this later when he questions the needed murder of Fleance and Banquo.  It seems that his first revelation was not enough.




kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To begin, let's take a look at a quote which shows hamartia, the fatal flaw which leads to a character's downfall. In Macbeth's case, hamartia comes in the form of his ambition and greed for power, characteristics which lead him to commit heinous acts of violence. For an example, take a look at Act I, Scene VII. In this quote, Macbeth knows that killing Duncan would be wrong, but he cannot check his ambition for the crown: 

I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself

And falls on th' other.

Secondly, for an example of peripeteia (a sudden change of fortunes), have a look at Act III, Scene III. Here, Fleance escapes Macbeth's henchmen and, in doing so, validates the prophecy that Banquo's sons will become kings. This is bad news for Macbeth since it threatens his kingship and Macbeth's know this, as shown by his reaction in Act III, Scene IV:

Then comes my fit again. I had else been perfect,

Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,

As broad and general as the casing air.

Finally, anagnorisis, the moment of critical discovery, occurs at the very end of the play, in Act V, Scene VIII, when Macbeth learns that Macduff is not of woman born and, therefore, poses a real threat. This crucial discovery has a huge impact on Macbeth because if frightens away his courage and makes him realize that he cannot win (although he still does not surrender):

Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,

For it hath cowed my better part of man!