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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero - Essay

  • Date Submitted: 11/09/2011 08:49 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50 
  • Words: 968
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Macbeth as a Tragic Hero
Shakespeare must have conceived of Macbeth as a personality caught up between the old and the new world-views and ethos—the conventional one and the Renaissance one. The former defined man’s place on earth in terms of the biblical world-view presented in the first chapter of the Bible Genesis, which necessarily linked it to the concept of Great Chain of Being, and accordingly dictated the codes of conduct. The later yet to come out fully, on the other, was trying to supplant the old ones with the new and pseudo-scientific one, which was slowly but surely encouraging man to think beyond the traditional framework towards the direction of fullest use of the human potentials. The audience/readers feel sympathetic to Macbeth, not because he possesses the high stature of a tragic hero described by Aristotle. They understand that he is a villain and criminal, but at the same time they also share his “vaulting ambition”, which collides head-on with the ethical parameters in the play.

The play has been presented not only against this backdrop, but also against another situation, which much attention has not been paid to. Actually the play starts at the crucial juncture of Scottish history: the king Duncan has grown old and feeble and sensing this, the rebels and the king of Norway the kingdom attacked. Macbeth along with others must have been conscious of this opportunity as ambitious persons always look forward to. Much has been said and written about his association with the Witches, and even if we ignore them, we hear an echo of the Witches’ words from him on his first appearance on the stage:

“So foul and fair day I have never seen”

We may presume that the grand success in the battles with Duncan’s enemy whetted his ambition before his actual meeting with the Witches. And when he learns from them that “”, he gets greatly moved. His excitement at the “strange intelligence” from the Witches begins to transform into a potent ambition...


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