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Macbeth: A Tragic Hero

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Tragedy occurs to some more often to others, but most define it differently. Webster's Dictionary defines it as "a kind of drama in which some fatal or mournful event occurs" (764). To philosophers and traditional writers philosophy takes on another meaning. For example, to famous philosophical figure Aristotle, "tragedy occurs when noble or great persons are led, through pride or a secret flaw in their personalities, to suffering that changes their fortune. The tragic hero must begin in a high position and end in death or some sort of degraded role" (Definitions of Tragedy). Based on human nature, Aristotle's philosophy of tragedy, and current literary criticism of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the main character, Macbeth, is classified as a tragic hero.

Born in 384 B.C. at Stagirus, well known philosopher Aristotle was a student to Plato for over twenty years. Growing up on this Greek Colony and attending lectures, he acquired and retained new information. His father was a well known physician and scientist therefore Aristotle's knowledge was broadened by his father. Unlike Plato, Aristotle studied the natural and sensory world; "while Plato used his reason, Aristotle used his senses" (Gaarder 107) He said that "things that are in the human soul were purely reflections of natural objects" (Gaarder 107). Aristotle believed that reason is mans most distinguishing characteristic; Macbeth had great lack of reason. When the first murder occurred, Macbeth did not anticipate the outcomes of the events, thus is soul was infected with selfish thought, and to him, nothing else mattered.

A human soul in Aristotle's words is "the perfect expression or realization of a natural body," which Macbeth follows (Aristotle). His internal instinct led his actions and soon to his main goal. Fellow philosopher Democritus, (460-370 B.C.), believed that all men are just mechanical and made up of different substances (Gaarder 44). If, his belief that there is no spiritual fore in nature, and everything happens mechanically is true, then Macbeth could not control his actions thus is innocent of his crimes. To Macbeth, it meant that he was destined to become king, and mechanically could not manage his own actions. This is because Macbeth's imagination is "plunging deeper and deeper into unreality," and turns into uncontrollable desires and wants (Knight 42). These two elements of soul and imagination are able to cause a dreadful combination of tragedy and misfortune. A Shakespearian critic implies that, "once caught by the devils bait, only at the end he is able to express his inward state openly" (Davidson 92). Wayne Booth, another critic, reasons that only, "a highly individualized noble man is sent to complete moral, intellectual and physical destruction" (85). Although Macbeth only recognized his sin towards the end and caused major destruction without much moral, he fought like a noble man and faced his flaws, which is important to Aristotle's definition of tragedy.

Human nature plays a great role in everyday life and actions of people. Human nature is made up of many elements; greed, guilt, and morality to name a few. People like to bathe themselves in self indulgence; which Macbeth demonstrates throughout the play. He first followed his desires to kill Duncan and become king, in order to gain nobility and stature. "Macbeth, like the whole universe of this play, is paralyzed, mesmerized, as though in a dream," adds Booth. Macbeth is tempted to do evil in order to indulge himself, but after the crime is completed, he begins to realize that yes - his crown is indeed "fruitless". Shakespeare did a great job underlining Macbeth to be a somewhat a moral person. He made his character become "isolated from humanity lonely, endures to the uttermost torture of isolation," explains Knight. He only kills to indulge his wants and he does not think of the consequences to follow. At the end, he "reforms and avoids his proper punishment" (Booth 85). In Act 1, Scene 5, Macbeth says, "Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o' milk of human kindness:" he is a moral human being because he fears kindness and does not trust others. He also makes several sacrifices in the duration of the play; "he must sell his eternal jewel to gain an earthly crown" and give up his inner pride (Davidson 92). The reader finds out that Macbeth has a very strong inner desire to be king when he listens closely to the witch's prophecy, and then follows it. This subconscious desire was filling him with guilt and causing several hallucinations to occur. In Act 2, Scene 1 Macbeth recites, "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" referring to nothing but his mind playing jokes on him. And after the first murder, Macbeth while losing

sleep cried out, "Me though I heard a voice cry 'sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep!'"(Act 2, Scene 2). This character's guilty mind does not permit him to cope with his sin and move on, he even cannot "wash the blood off" his hands. Once he begins the sin, he must continue it to prolong his thrown by killing everyone in his way, one thing this hard headed character did not take into account, for example Duncan's


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