Macbeth – tyrant or tragic hero
A tragic hero is said to be doomed from his beginning. Though courage and loyalty dwell in him, the temptation of superior life can be unsurpassable, and a civil person can display vicious, primitive attitudes and carry out evil deeds. Macbeth was an unfortunate man, who seemed insatiable, pitiless, and power-hungry, but really just attempted to cover up a tiny weakness he obtained through incidences beyond his control. Within Macbeth, there are several indications that may lead a person to think that he was insatiable and selfish.
For instance, after the fierce victory over Sweno, Macbeth is presented with a new, more respectable title. “No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive… with his former title greet Macbeth. ” (1:2:73-75) Though he should have been very content with this new placement, the visit from the witches promised him superior reign and wealth. Like any ordinary person, Macbeth reacted with surprise and interest. Here he was a trifling thane and he was being guaranteed all the riches and prosperity that goes along with being king!
He began to enjoy this thought, and he silently wished the prophecy true. This may have been the initial voracious act, but it was far from the last. On the other hand, it may have been beyond Macbeth’s control. The three witches were obvious perpetrators in the situation, presenting him with a tempting prophecy lacking any explanation. “All hail Macbeth! … thane of Glamis! … thane of Cawdor! … that shalt be king hereafter. ” (1:3:50-53) These witches were predicting his future, and at first Macbeth seemed to consider the predictions to be impossible.
This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill…commencing a truth” (1:3:140-143) If feasible, he thinks there would be a frightening reality. “Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair…present fears are less than horrible imaginings…” (1:3:145-149) But it is as though Macbeth could not continue to doubt their predictions due to his own racing desires. They were forcing such a great idea into his head, and he could not suppress the temptation of one day being crowned.
His emotions were being played with, not only by the witches but also by his wife, who made him feel cowardly when he decided against taking Duncan’s life. “Wouldst thou have that… And live a coward in thine own esteem…” (1:7:44-48) Both Lady Macbeth and the witches manipulated Macbeth into being unsatisfied with his position, and wanting more. In this way, he was far from innocent, but he was not exactly a tyrant. There are, however, ways in which Macbeth seemed undeniably cruel. First of all, he committed the act of murder. With his own hands, in his right mind, he killed the king of Scotland.
Not only did he slay him, he held the king’s loyal guards responsible, and supposedly murdered them out of rage. He seemed to feel little remorse after the incident, and upon his reign he became so paranoid that he had his best friend, Banquo, murdered because he knew of the witches’ prophecies. Soon after, he threw a banquet, creating an atmosphere of happiness. I think his intentions were to cover up the incident quickly so that remorse would not set in. He repeatedly does this throughout the story, and his cruel deeds only increase in number as his ego grows.
The castle of Macduff I will surprise… His wife, his babes… that trace him in his line” (4:1:65-68) This quote is an example of his unsympathetic nature. He is not concerned with whether they are innocent spouses or little guiltless babies, he will obliterate until he is satisfied. He sends his death orders out like Christmas cards, blinded by his wickedness and confidence. Yet his bad nature can be justified to a certain extent. He was incredibly weak in the beginning. He would not have gone through with the murdering of Duncan if it was not for the pressure from his wife.
He loved her dearly, and anything that she wished he would do for her. When he got nervous about any issue dealing with the rising of his position, his wife was there to feed him more filthy promises about how glorious their lives could be if he could just pull himself together. He would do it instantly, not only because she wanted him to, but because he had to be a strong, confident man that had more grit than a measly woman. The witches threw the prophecies out in thin air for him to interpret, and naturally, being the same dominant man, he saw them as almost a challenge.
These witches were offering him the most desired life, and he was mistaken to think he could achieve it without remorse and pain. But, then again, if it wasn’t for his wife’s influence would he have even attempted? The last tyrannical characteristic that Macbeth encompasses is capriciousness. He does not take the time to think through his actions, he cannot stop to worry about other peoples feelings, because then he would be susceptible to guilt. So, he just acts instantly, without sympathy or consideration.
The very firstlings …of my hand…” (4:1:162-163) Macbeth says he will act on impulse when talking about slaughtering Macduff’s family. He seems frantic after the death of Duncan, and he acts without contemplation. This creates a mood of panic in the story, and you see that Macbeth has turned into an impulsive character who will ultimately fall. He does not, however, fall desperately. “I will not be afraid… Dunsinane” (5:3:68-69) Here, Macbeth assures himself and the doctor that he has nothing to fear yet, and that he will be strong and confident.
When the forest does approach Dunsinane he sounds the alarm and rather than fleeing, gathers up all his strength and courage and promises a dignified battle, despite the outcome. He could have easily backed down and given up his reign by choice, but he stood his ground and fought with passion and aggression. He was aware that he had failed himself, his wife, and lost all nobility, and maybe he had lost all ambition to live. He had nothing left to continue on for. But he did say, “Ring the alarum-bell! … harness on our back. 5:3:56-57) I perceive this to be true courage on Macbeth’s part. A tragic hero is said to be doomed from his beginning.
A victim of his own ambition and moral weakness, Macbeth decline from a kind, respectable warrior, to a murdering, lying, fiend. It is his obsessive and literal belief in the prophecies that impaired him. The tragedy of Macbeth is of the kind of man he could have been and almost was, but fell short because he overlooked the contradictions in his character and made the fatal mistake of giving in to his ambition.