How is Macbeth a tragic hero?

Macbeth is a tragic hero because he starts the play as a good man who is loyal to the king, but he then succumbs to moral corruption by giving in to his ambitious desire to become king himself. He puts his faith in the prophecies of the three witches, betrays his former friends, and commits murder in a quest for power that leads to his downfall by the end of the play.

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Macbeth is a tragic hero because he started the play as a good man, but the manipulations of the Weird Sisters and his wife brought out his baser qualities. This leads to Macbeth's moral corruption and downfall by the play's end.  

It is clear Macbeth begins the play...

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Macbeth is a tragic hero because he started the play as a good man, but the manipulations of the Weird Sisters and his wife brought out his baser qualities. This leads to Macbeth's moral corruption and downfall by the play's end.  

It is clear Macbeth begins the play as a loyal friend and decent man.  When the Captain speaks about the battle, Macbeth is described as "brave," even as "Valor's minion" (Act I, Scene 2, lines 18, 21).  As a result of Macbeth's great loyalty and service to the crown, Duncan describes him as "valiant" and "worthy" (Act I, Scene 2, line 26).  In addition, Macbeth's wife, the person who would likely know him best, describes him as "full o' th' milk of human kindness" (Act I, Scene 5, line 17).  Macbeth tries to get out of the plan to kill Duncan, telling Lady Macbeth, "We will proceed no further in this business" because his own ambition is not enough to compel him to murder his friend, kinsman, and king (Act I, Scene 7, line 34).

It is not until Lady Macbeth insults Macbeth's pride, deftly manipulating him to do what she wants, that he finally truly commits to their plan.  Lady Macbeth insults her husband's masculinity, calling him a "coward" and saying that, when Macbeth is willing to murder the king, "then [he will be] a man," implying Macbeth wouldn't really be a man unless he goes forward with their plan (Act I, Scene 7, lines 47, 56).

None of this would even be an issue, however, had the Weird Sisters not tried to manipulate Macbeth with their "prophecies."  They say, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair," meaning that good things will look bad and bad things will look good, implying their "prophecies" to Macbeth will seem wonderful but will really lead to terrible consequences (Act I, Scene 1, line 12).  Hecate says she will conjure up "artificial sprites" that will "draw him on to his confusion" (Act III, Scene 5, lines 27, 29); she intends to deceive Macbeth and lead him to his destruction.  Had Macbeth never been subjected to the manipulations of the witches and his wife, he would likely spend his final years peacefully in Glamis or Cawdor.  Instead, before his death, Macbeth finds himself without love, morally bankrupt, loathed by all, and with a name now synonymous with tyranny.

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The character of Macbeth in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a perfect example of a tragic hero.

A tragic hero is supposed to have a high noble status. Macbeth is shown to be a warrior, and someone very loyal to the king. Just as the play opens, we we are made aware of Macbeth’s heroic status because of the battle he fights and wins so courageously.

A tragic hero has to have a "tragic" flaw, i.e. Hamartia and this tragic flaw causes destruction of the character’s nobleness and ultimately leads to his downfall, even death. Macbeth grows excessively hungry for power. And this over ambitiousness in him is actually a reason for his fall. Because of the prophecies of the witches about him, he starts strongly desiring to become the king. He doesn't think of the consequences. He grows from a brave, morally strong human being to a violent, evil one. Macbeth kills King Duncan, and several others like (Macduff's wife and child, Banquo) just for power. Besides these, after gaining the throne, Macbeth becomes overly proud. He thinks he has got it all and nothing can destroy his power now. This is also a major flaw, extreme pride or Hubris. Macbeth cannot have redemption. And he dies in the end.

Like a tragic hero, Macbeth does not die unaware of the cause of his destruction, i.e. he realizes that he himself is to be blamed for all of it. But he accepts this and chooses not to be a coward, although he knows that as per the witches’ prophecies, he will die in the war. He shows courage in the end, and so, in this way, Macbeth dies as a hero.


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Macbeth is considered a tragic hero because, despite the apparently predestined nature of what transpires in the play, he is nevertheless responsible for his own actions. True, the witches "proclaim" his becoming King -- and he does! But throughout the play, Shakespeare artistically and artfully has Macbeth realize the crime he is contemplating --the murder of King Duncan. He has, says Macbeth, been the epitome of gentleness; kind and generous to him. Nothing justifies the assassination.

Yet Lady Macbeth concludes at once that the murder is necessary. Macbeth agrees but is not willing to kill the king.  He has a conscience, but his wife seems to be completely bereft of it. Together, they plot the murder and Macbeth kills the king.

Everything goes downhill after that. Muder begets more murders; lies beget lies. "Naughts are all spent/Where our desire's got without content," says Lady Macbeth.

What Shakespeare does, with great artistry and humanity, is give Macbeth a free will. Life will have its propositions, even temptations. But a person, especially one with the social stature of Macbeth, is expected to weigh the good with the bad. Never in the play does he once doubt the sin he was about to commit. But his ambition, spurred on by the witches and his wife, came to be his downfall.

Macbeth is a tragic hero because he exhibits all the characteristics of a tragic hero of the Elizabethan age: a person from a noble family, basically good, but, plagued by his ambition, ends up committing a henious act, bringing about his own downfall, filling us, his audience and readers, with pity and terror.

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A tragic hero is "a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat". Macbeth fits that definition perfectly. At the onset of the play, we see Macbeth victorious in the battlefield. The warriors with Macbeth praise him on the battlefield.  King Duncan hears about Macbeth’s bravery and awards Macbeth the title Thane of Cawdor after the previous Thane had committed treason. In other words, it seems as if Macbeth is destined for great things…all on his own merit.

Yet, once the witches appear to Macbeth and Banquo, Macbeth wants to take matters into his own hands. He gets in his own way. Aristotle’s concept of hamartia is evident here. Macbeth makes a miscalculation. He wants to rise to the top through wrongdoing which of course makes him a tragic hero. Also, hubris is at work here as well. Macbeth has overwhelming pride and, this too, leads to his downfall. He thinks he is greater than all others as he is gullible and believes the witches’ prophesies. They are there to lead him down a path of destruction, and he willingly follows to gain success.  He will stop at nothing to attain the kingship. Of course, all of this actually leads to his demise making his one of the most tragic heroes in British Literature.

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Macbeth is a tragic hero because he meets three of the four criteria as outlined by Aristotle.

According to Aristotle in the Poetics, the following characteristics are representative of a tragic hero:

1. The tragic hero is a character of noble stature and has greatness. This should be readily evident in the play. The character must occupy a "high" status position but must ALSO embody nobility and virtue as part of his/her innate character.

In Macbeth, Macbeth can be seen as a tragic hero based upon this characteristic. He does occupy a high status and, initially, embodies virtue.

2. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect. Otherwise, the rest of us--mere mortals--would be unable to identify with the tragic hero. We should see in him or her someone who is essentially like us, although perhaps elevated to a higher position in society.

Another characterisitc where Macbeth falls into that of a tragic hero is #2: many other characters see him as great- higher than the typical character in the Macbeth society.

3. The hero's downfall, therefore, is partially her/his own fault, the result of free choice, not of accident or villainy or some overriding, malignant fate. In fact, the tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment or some character flaw that contributes to the hero's lack of perfection noted above. This error of judgment or character flaw is known as hamartia and is usually translated as "tragic flaw.

Again, Macbeth meets this criteria of the tragic hero. His downfall is his own fault. While some may argue that others were potentially responsible (the witches and Lady Macbeth), he ultimately made the final decisions regarding his actions.

4. The hero's misfortunate is not wholly deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime.

Here is where Macbeth parts from the typical tragic hero. Macbeth, is eye for an eye is believed, deserved his outcome. His punishment (he is killed) does not exceed his crime (murder).

While some may argue that Macbeth is not a Tragic Hero, based upon Aristotle's definition, he meets three out of four requirements.

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A tragic hero is a person of noble birth with heroic or potentially heroic qualities. Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. He seems fated by the Gods or by some supernatural forces to doom and destruction or at least to great suffering. This tragic drama involves choices or free will and results in a paradox,is it Fate or Free Will which is primarily responsible for the suffering in the hero's life? Though fated the hero makes choices that bring about his destruction. In addition, tragic drama usually reveals the hero's true identity. The hero's suffering, however, is not gratuitous because through great suffering the hero is enlightened. Such heroes learn about themselves and their place in the universe. Pride is chastened. Though destroyed the hero is at peace intellectually. Many factors contribute to Macbeth’s description as a tragic hero. The prophecy which was told to him by the witches, how Lady Macbeth influenced and manipulated Macbeth's judgment, and finally Macbeth's long time ambition which drove his desire to be king. Macbeth's growing character degenerates from a noble man to violent individual. Exploring to a greater extent these ideas that lead to a tragic hero should help you.

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Macbeth is something of a tragic hero because at times he seems a victim of preordained fate. Though he is definitely guilty of pride and greed, there is a certain doom implied in the witches' prophecies. When Macbeth goes to the "weird sisters" demanding a prophesy, they answer his demands by showing him the future, but in a cryptic way.

The first appartaion is that of an armed head, which warns thim to "beware Macduff,", the second is a bloody child who eerily says that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth"; the third is a crowned child who says Macbeth will be safe until "Birnam Wood moves against him."

In Act V, Macbeth is told that Birnam Wood *is* moving against him, his Queen has taken her own life, and lastly, Macduff informs him that he is not of "woman born" but was "from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd."

Macbeth falls to Macduff's sword, beheaded. A tragedy, indeed.

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A tragic hero is a man (usually) of heroic qualities, generally a good person, who is brought low by his own error in judgment. We, the audience, are meant to pity him (and presumably learn from him). 

Macbeth is a tragic hero because, as the Thane of Glamis, he is a noble man, a great warrior, proven in battle and admired and appreciated by his king (Duncan). In the opening scene, before we've even met him, the sergeant fresh from the battle tells Duncan that the rebel Macdonwald was faced down by "brave Macbeth" who "disdain[ed] fortune"--not caring whether he lived or died in the fray--"like valour's minion" hacked his way through the soldiers until he found Macdonwald and wordlessly unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps." Malcolm praises him for being valiant, and the sergeant adds that after Macdonwald's men fled, the Norwegian lord with whom he was allied, having fresh men and supplies, renewed the attack, but Macbeth was not dismayed; instead, he and Banquo doubled their efforts and waded into the battle. We see him being absolutely fearless in the protection of his king and his king's lands. He is noble and loyal. 

When Macbeth learns from the witches that he is to be Thane of Cawdor (defeated in the battle he himself is fresh from) and "king hereafter," he does not believe it until Ross addresses him as Thane of Cawdor. At this point, Macbeth is excited and frightened, because he doesn't understand what it means. He admits that it seems like it's a good thing to have the first prophesy come true, then says: 

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair
And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,
Against the use of nature? (I.3.)

He's already considering, deep down, what he might do next to become "king hereafter," but he knows it's unnatural and wrong. 

When Duncan greets him and says he cannot thank him enough, Macbeth responds: 

The service and the loyalty I owe,
In doing it, pays itself. Your highness' part
Is to receive our duties; and our duties
Are to your throne and state children and servants,
Which do but what they should, by doing every thing
Safe toward your love and honour. (I.4.24-9)

In so many words, he graciously tells the king that he and Banquo simply did their duty, and we have no reason to question his sincerity. 

His first mistake is to tell his wife, via a letter, the Weird Sisters' prophesy. Lady Macbeth admits: 

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou'ldst have, great Glamis,
That which cries 'Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone.' (I.5.15-25)

In other words, He is Thane of Glamis and now Thane of Cawdor, and (if she has her way), he will be king (what he is promised). But, she admits up front that he is "too full of the milk of human kindness" to "catch the nearest way" (i.e., do it the easy way). She knows he is not the kind of man to cheat his way to the throne; the only way he would take is the holy path. Thus, she confirms that he is a good man, worthy of the honors heaped upon him. 

Of course, Lady Macbeth has no such compunctions. She already knows she'll have to talk him into "catching the nearest way" by "chastising with the valour of [her] tongue." 

In the beginning of I.7, Macbeth--having had the idea of murder planted in his head by his ambitious wife--muses about the consequences of it. He decides that he will not only have to pay for it by going to hell, but that such an action would be known in this life, as well, and he'd have to pay. He realizes that their plans are a "poison'd chalice" which they bring "To [their] own lips," then tells his lady that he will hear no more of the plan. She responds that he must not love her then and accuses him of being a coward. He responds with "Prithee, peace: / I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none." 

His weakness, then--or "tragic flaw," if you will--is the perception of others regarding his manhood. She sees this and accuses him not not being a man if he goes back on his vow to kill Duncan (a vow he did not make, incidentally). 

He fears his own mental illness on the way to murder Duncan, but driven by his wife's insistence, goes and murders the king, re-emerging with the bloody dagger still in his hand. Lady Macbeth meets him and finds him troubled, complaining of hearing voices, and learns he has not "finished the deed"--that is, murdered the grooms, as well, and "gilded their faces" with Duncan's blood, to put the blame on them. Macbeth is too shook up to go back into the chamber, demonstrating that he is still the same man he was, regretting his deeds and now afraid for his soul, so Lady Macbeth does it for him. 

He's begun his downward slide, so when Banquo muses to himself in III.1, "Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all, / As the weird women promised, and, I fear, / Thou play'dst most foully for't," then tells Macbeth he must leave immediately, Macbeth realizes Banquo is onto him and must be silenced. He also is angry, now that the witches' prophesy is coming true, that Banquo is promised a line of kings while Macbeth himself will wear "a fruitless crown," and thus sends out two murderers to finish off Banquo. He admits to his wife that his mind is "full of scorpions"; he fears now the truth that everyone might see. 

He is subsequently haunted by the ghost of his now-murdered friend, and plagued with fear of being found out. In III.4, he has come to fear what Macduff may think, as well, and makes plans to return to the weird sisters for more guidance: 

And betimes I will, to the weird sisters:
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er. 

The last lines of this passage is his acceptance that his deeds have led him to the point that he cannot back out of the situation now, so he may as well go on. 

When he goes to the weird sisters, they summon three apparitions which tell him, respectively, that he is to fear Macduff, that no man of woman born can kill him (Macbeth), and that no harm will come to him until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. In his pride, he dismisses all of these, considering the last two impossible, thus discounting the first warning altogether. This is his third mistake: forgetting to be the humble servant he should be, even as the crowned king. He has come to see himself as invincible, a mistake in any mortal. 

Thus, pushed by his ambitious wife (and all she had to do was insult his manhood) then full of his own success, he descends from the man of honor and servitude the play began with to a murderer, a man as cold and thoughtless as his wife had claimed to be. In the end, of course, Birnam wood does come to Dunsinane and he is, in fact, killed by a man who "was from his mother's womb untimely ripped," so technically, "not of a woman born." 

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This question is one that divides critics. A tragic hero is a person who is basically good but has a weakness, a flaw, that prevents him from achieving or maintaining greatness. You would need

Some critics believe that Macbeth is a tragic hero because when the play opens, Macbeth is a brave and valiant soldier who is loyal to King Duncan. He has proven himself in battle, and the king rewards him for his service. The tragedy is that Macbeth isn't able to fight the forces of evil. These critics believe that Macbeth was led down the wrong path by the weird sisters and Lady Macbeth.

Other critics feel Macbeth simply has no morals. All it takes for him to become a killer and a traitor are the predictions made by the weird sisters and the coaxing of his wife. After that, Macbeth is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way, including his best friend and Macduff's wife and child. He doesn't seem to care when he's told that Lady Macbeth is dead. Macbeth is consumed by his desire for power and doesn't let anything or anyone stop him. This is more than a tragic flaw, according to these critics. They feel Macbeth is evil.

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MacBeth is a tragic hero because of the following:

1. He occupies a high station at the beginning of the play and "falls" by the end of it.

2. Macbeth is a soldier, a general, and acts through "orders." Macbeth was "ordered" by his wife to go through with this business and even the witches' prophecies are a kind of suggestion to one who more capable of action and not reflective thought.

3. MacBeth seems incapable of resisting his wife's argumentation on whether or not he should kill a King and commit regicide.

4. Macbeth seems incapable of resisting the suggestions of the witches and their promises of power and glory. Macbeth should  resist the power of "vaulting ambition" but he doesn't and once he is "stepped so far in blood" he cannot get out of it.

5. Toward the end of Macbeth, before the attack on Dunnsinane and after Lady Macbeth's suicide, he is incapable of pity, remorse, or anything resembling normal human pain and suffering. In his "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy he is completely nihilistic, cold, unfeeling, and a shell of his former self.

Look up "tragic hero" and "Macbeth" and you should find further information you could use in answering the question.

Good luck!

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