Tragic Hero As Defined by Aristotle

According to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, a tragic hero is a person with high social status and somebody who has a confidential flaw that could in the end lead to facing a downfall with courage and dignity causing the audience to feel sympathy. Generally, a tragic hero is a grievous legend that is seen as an honorable character. A tragic hero experiences a change from not bad to good, but from good to bad. To go moreover, the character Macbeth happens to relate to all of these qualities.

With this explanation, I believe that Macbeth is, in fact, a tragic hero.

Introduction on Macbeth

To start off, Macbeth was born into a family of high social status, and also the cousin of King Duncan. He was the Scottish general that served under the king and he was the thane of Glamis. There were the prophecies of the three witches who told Macbeth that he would become Thane of Cawdor and also the King.

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In Act 1 Scene 2, Macbeth led King Duncan’s forces into the battle. Macbeth had killed Macdonwald, which lead their troop to win the battle. More into scene 2, King Duncan was astonished of Macbeth’s guidance, success, and courage in the battle and had praised Macbeth by granting him nobility and higher status, which was Thane of Cawdor. From everybody’s point of view, becoming Thane of Cawdor was a big deal since that position held a great amount of power. Although Macbeth has attained a rise in superiority, yet rather than being fulfilled with the gift he has honorably attained, he remains unfulfilled.

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Another reason is that Macbeth had his flaws. Macbeth’s biggest flaw that stood out was his strong ambition. Although it may not seem like a flaw, it shows Macbeth’s bad side. Macbeth’s desire and wanting to be even nobler is more important to him than everything else going on throughout his everyday life. He will give up anything that he has in order to sit in a higher position. His temptation caused him to create a horrible mistake! In Act 1 Scene 5-7, Lady Macbeth is trying to manipulate and convince Macbeth into murdering King Duncan and doing whatever it takes to take hold of the crown, but Macbeth is in doubt as he thinks he has no reason to do so. Lady Macbeth then starts to point out to Macbeth as a coward even though she knows he is ambitious, she thinks he is too full of “the milk of human kindness” to take the steps important for him to become King. This all leads to Macbeth contemplating his idea of assassinating King Duncan. He says that it will be good to because he thinks that it won’t lead to terrible consequences, but he also thinks it would be bad because King Duncan is admired as a virtuous ruler and that he is Macbeth’s kinsman, subject, and host. His thought leads Lady Macbeth to again scold him and question his manhood, having the belief that murder defines manhood. She says, “When you durst do it then you were a man”, and if they fail to kill King Duncan, they will both still be successful. She proceeds to tell Macbeth the plan to kill King Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth ended up killing King Duncan and a bunch of servants as a cover-up and came back with blood-filled hands, and a voice in his head saying, “Sleep no more/Macbeth does murder sleep”. Macbeth crowned King of Scotland, along with another murder.

Macbeth shortly was crowned King of Scotland and realized that this is the start of the strength and power that he wished for. Macbeth became fearful of his position due to hallucinations of the murder and would do anything to stay king, so he started to kill any person for power or who may have the chance to take his power away, as Macbeth sees them as a threat. An example of this was in Act 3 scene 3, when Macbeth became worried that Banquo was a threat to the throne, so he ordered 3 people to murder Banquo to be safe.

Macbeth may or may not feel sympathy/mourn over somebody’s death, depending on the time.

In Act 5 scene 5, Macbeth found out by a messenger and by the sound on women cry that his wife, Lady Macbeth died. Macbeth says: “She would have died hereafter; there would have been a time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. To the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools, the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This explains that Macbeth does not want any sympathy from the audience by claiming he doesn’t have the time to mourn over his wife, since she was going to die any day. He says that life is a story told by an idiot full of emotions but lacks meaning and life is nothing but an illusion; it’s like a poor actor who struts and worries for his turn on stage only to never be remembered again. However, all the servants he murdered for his cover-up for the murder of Duncan, Macbeth persisted they were all also just a part of his life story. Yet, Macbeth’s sympathy for deaths changes by time. For instance, Macbeth felt uncertain on murdering Duncan because Duncan was a cousin who does no wrong to him. He felt as if it was unacceptable and he wouldn’t deserve to be king after committing that secret murder. Macbeth faces a fatal flaw and the loss of his King title.

As a final point, Macbeth faced a large downfall with courage and dignity. Towards the end of Act 5, Malcolm starts a battle against Macbeth in Dunsinane. This battle was the main decline of Macbeth’s power. Although, Macbeth knew he was going to die he refused to commit suicide and claimed that he wanted to fight until the end. During the battle, Macbeth encounters Young Sidward and eventually kills him, leading Macbeth to regain courage. Later on, Malcolm came across Macbeth in a match and Malcolm brutally kills Macbeth, ending the battle and Malcolm taking the crown and gaining the title of king.

In conclusion, Macbeth is a tragic hero by – as said by Aristotle – being born into a high social status family, having a fatal flaw that he didn’t accept was an issue, and he faced a collapse with courage. Overall, he fits the quality of an unlucky hero based on the start description of a tragic hero. After all the conflicts he had to go through, he always stuck to the ambition and goal of becoming king.

Cite this page

Tragic Hero As Defined by Aristotle. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from

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