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Tragic Heroes in Shakespeares "Macbeth" and "King Lear"

In Shakespeares’ two plays Macbeth and King Lear, the two protagonists, King Lear and Macbeth can both be described as tragic heroes. A tragic hero is defined as someone who has perished into a inferior state from a higher position of power because of their own actions. This requires the tragic hero to begin with a high social status. Both Shakespearian characters, King Lear, the king of England and Macbeth, who was a very successful warrior, fall under this definition. These two reputable men tore their lives apart in pursuit of their ambitions with the help of those around them.

Although having similar tragic flaws, the two characters can be contrasted in both their different goals and lengths they go to attempting to fulfill their ambitions. The characters King Lear and Macbeth created by Shakespeare exemplify what it means to be tragic heroes in both their similarities and differences.
The characters King Lear and Macbeth share a common tragic flaw: their figurative blindness.

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Although having a shared tragic flaw, the two characters are blind to different things.

King Lear is blinded by his rage, causing it to supersede his decision making. Ignoring Kent, his most trusted ally, he banishes his only daughter who was honest to him, not like her sisters who were pampering him with fake love, using him for his power. Lear banishes Cordelia because of her reply to his demand of flattery. “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth.” (I.i. 90–91). Instead of understanding the words of his only faithful daughter remaining, King Lear is blinded by his rage and exiles Cordelia, disowning her.

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“Here I disclaim all my paternal care, Propinquity, and property of blood, And as a stranger to my heart and me Hold thee, from this, for ever.” (I.i 125-128). King Lear, sets his tragic demise in motion by disowning his daughter, allowing his other two evil daughters to split his land and power. Macbeth is also blinded figuratively but unlike King Lear, he is blinded by his ambitions. This ambition of power and wealth is cause by the three witches promising him that he will become king. His blindness slowly corrupts him starting his irrational conquest towards the throne. Macbeth states that his ambition is consuming him. \”I have no spur, To prick the sides only, Vaulting ambition, which oerleaps itself And falls on th’other.” (I.vii 25-29). This irrational plot starts with him committing murder upon the current King Duncan. After once serving his king in battle, the ambitious Macbeth commits regicide, starting his fatal descent.

Although both these characters act as catalysts to their own tragic demises, others around them help fuel their desires for their own personal benefit. King Lear is flattered by two of his daughter, Goneril and Regan in exchange for his power and land. All of this encourages King Lear to give up his kingdom as he feels loved by his daughters, achieving what he so foolishly desired. King Lear’s decision was his own however, it was helped by his selfish daughters. This can be seen when Goneril is scheming with her sister Regan, “You see how full of changes his age is. The observation we have made of it hath not been little. He always lov\’d our sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her off appears too grossly.” (I.i 314-319). The two evil sisters recognize their fathers mistake and rejoice in his folly. Regan and Goneril show their deceitfulness to their father and king, displaying how they will lie to him in exchange for his power. While making the decision alone, Lear was coerced into doing so by his own family. This banishment coupled with the betrayal of his two daughters after giving up his power drives Lear mad and is ultimately his undoing. Macbeth, alike King Lear, is coerced into his demise by his own family.

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Tragic Heroes in Shakespeares "Macbeth" and "King Lear". (2020, Sep 02). Retrieved from

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