Provide quotes that prove that Shakespeare's Macbeth, in his play by the same name, is a tragic hero.

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To define a tragic hero, it is probably best to use Aristotle's characteristics of a tragic hero. It is slightly frustrating that different sources will have slightly different characteristics for what a tragic hero is. However, the main components remain relatively static.

Generally, a tragic hero is a person that is looked up to and revered by people. The character is either rich, famous, or both. In Macbeth's case, we are told that he is a great warrior on the battlefield, and I think that this is important. However, I think it is also important to note that even before these battles, Macbeth was a thane. He is part of the upper class.

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

The defining trait of a tragic hero is generally identified as a tragic flaw of some kind. There is something about his/her person that will ultimately lead to his/her downfall. For Macbeth, it is his ambition. However, in this play I urge readers caution about placing too much blame on Macbeth's ambition. The ambition is definitely there. He talks about his "vaulting ambition," but Macbeth is initially able to keep it in check. He tells his wife that he is not going to go through with the murder, but she berates him into doing it with her famous speech. Macbeth's ambition plants the seed in his mind, but Lady Macbeth's ambition pushes him over the precipice to take the first step.

A third characteristic is a reversal of fortune brought upon the hero because of the hero's error in judgment and actions. This happens to Macbeth. He moves from being a thane, to being a king, to being dead. It is not necessary for a tragic hero to die. Aristotle's characteristics say that the hero must suffer greatly because of his mistakes. The suffering should also be more than the hero deserves. It just so happens that most of the time the great suffering and punishment usually ends with the hero's death.

Hail, King! for so thou art. Behold where stands

The usurper's cursed head.

Another trait of the tragic hero is that the hero must understand his/her doom and the fact that his/her fate is a result of their previous actions. By act 5, Macbeth knows that everyone is trying to kill him and remove him from the throne, but he believes that he is untouchable. He believes this because he was told that he cannot be killed by anyone born of a woman. Then, Macduff announces that he was not born in the traditional sense.

Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripped.
It is at this moment that Macbeth realizes that he is doomed.
Accursèd be that tongue that tells me so,
For it hath cowed my better part of man!
And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense,
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.
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Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a man who is great—meaning, in this case, a hero or someone highly regarded by others. Our hero must die, and his death is his own fault, generally brought about by his tragic flaw.

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth is a great man: at the beginning of the play, Macbeth has just come from the battlefield, and King Duncan receives news of Macbeth's valor in the latest skirmish with the Norwegians. The Sergeant reports:

For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name

Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel...

carved out his passage

Till he faced the slave... (I.ii.18-19, 21-22)

Duncan is full of praise for Macbeth and heaps rewards upon him when they meet. Reading further, we find that Duncan is not only Macbeth's King, but also a cousin and Macbeth's friend. Duncan loves him like a son and pledges to continue rewarding him for all he has done in defense of his native Scotland.

A tragic hero must have a tragic flaw. Macbeth is quick to note that his flaw is "vaulting ambition:" ambition that is never satisfied. His desire to be greater—more powerful—is insatiable.

Finally, our tragic hero must die because of his flaw. Macbeth has listened to and believed the predictions of the three witches. However, they provide him only with "half-truths," things that aren't really accurate in the deepest sense—they sound plausible, if not totally credible. Macbeth accepts all that the witches tell him, even knowing they are creatures that serve evil. Hecate, queen of the witches, notes that man's "chiefest enemy" is a false sense of security.

He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear

His hopes ’bove wisdom, grace, and fear.

And you all know security

Is mortals’ chiefest enemy. (III.v.30-34)

The witches lure him on with their enticing lies until Macbeth realizes he has been tricked and has no way to turn back. For one last time, we see Macbeth's greatest as he chooses to fight to the death rather than surrender to Malcolm. (Macduff eventually kills him.) So Macbeth declares:

Yet I will try the last. Before my body

I throw my warlike shield! Lay on, Macduff,

And damn'd be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!” (V.viii.37-39)

Macduff enters and reports his victory to Malcolm:

Hail, King! for so thou art. Behold where stands

The usurper's cursed head. (63-64)

According to Aristotle's definition, Macbeth is a tragic hero.

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