4. Discuss Macbeth as a tragic hero - his strengths, his weaknesses, his tragic flaw and the effect of outside influences on his nature.
The contributions of Macbeth towards his fate in becoming the "tragic hero" is evident from the first act. Like other of Shakespearean plays, the tragic hero, Macbeth, is noble, honourable and highly respected by the general public at the start of the play. Unfortunately Macbeth contributes to his own fate more than what is implied. What seems to be his strengths, backfires and these become his weaknesses.
During the play, Macbeth's strengths were ambition, courage, and honour. Prior to the murders Macbeth utilised his strengths well and this earned him a new title: "Thane of Cawdor". "For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name. Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel, Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valour's minion carv'd out his passage, Till he fac'd the slave." (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 16-20). However, after the murder of Banquo, his ambition and superstitious nature clouded his morals and common sense. Pride and ambition were a main contributor to his faltering public image of a brave hero.
Macbeth's own nature and "metaphysical" influences is a lethal cocktail which propels him to his fate. The witches' ambiguous prophesies affected Macbeth by making him curious to why they greated him as Thane of Cawdor and why he would soon become king. Ambition seemed to be Macbeth's forte but after the murder of King Duncan, which led to the murder of others, including Macduff's family, it became his frailty.
In general, the witches and Lady Macbeth were responsible for causing Macbeth ambition to become tragic flaw. Lady Macbeth, although not having any direct influences on Macbeth's fate, affected his character deterioration by testing his courage and manhood by suggesting that he is a coward for not taking "the shortest way". When Macbeth starts to come to his senses and tells his wife that they won't murder Duncan, she replies: "How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this." (Act 1, Scene 7, Lines 55-59). This bold statement by Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth that he is weaker than a woman if he does not murder Duncan. Macbeth's kind and passionate nature is easily manipulated by his wife.
The witches throughout the play, especially at the start, play an important role as they suggest from their speeches that Macbeth is superstitious. Also their speeches can be interpreted as telling the readers that Macbeth's superstitious nature will lead to something fatal. He feels the pressure of his imagination heightening into illusion, like the vision of the dagger which he thinks invites him to murder Duncan and the illusion of Banquo's ghost. "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee: I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation , Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?" (Act 2, Scene 1, lines 33-39).
The turning point of the play is when Macbeth shows signs of panic when a section of the army marches towards Dunsinane. He threatens the messanger that he will be hung upon a tree if he is lying about the Birnam Wood moving towards Dunsinane. From this point every aspect of Macbeth shows signs of distress and a master plan failing.
Macbeth's fate in becoming the tragic hero is that he is not the victim of someone else's mistakes. Everyone of his strengths and advantages all fail and turn out be his weaknesses and guilty conscience. After he murders Banquo it leads to crime after crime which contributes to his character deterioration leaving him without friends, unhappy, unsuccessful and remorseful, but his early contributions to his public image leaves a slightly positive overall image of Macbeth. When he becomes the tragic hero one can only say that he himself is to blame.
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