Macbeth as a Tragic Hero Analyzed

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 928 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 928|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Flaws of Macbeth
  2. The Internal Struggle of Macbeth
  3. The Downfall of Macbeth
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

William Shakespeare's play Macbeth is often considered a masterpiece of tragedy, with its exploration of ambition, power, and the destructive consequences of unchecked desire. Central to the play is the character of Macbeth himself, a figure whose journey from noble warrior to ruthless tyrant has captivated audiences for centuries. In this essay, we will examine Macbeth as a tragic hero, exploring the characteristics that define his tragic nature and the impact of his actions. By analyzing his flaws, his internal struggle, and his ultimate downfall, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature and the consequences of succumbing to one's darkest desires.

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The Flaws of Macbeth

One of the key aspects of a tragic hero is their possession of a tragic flaw, a personal characteristic that leads to their downfall. Macbeth's tragic flaw is his unchecked ambition. From the moment he first encounters the witches and hears their prophecy that he will become king, Macbeth is consumed by a desire for power. This desire drives him to commit heinous acts, such as the murder of King Duncan, in order to achieve his goal. As the play progresses, Macbeth's ambition becomes increasingly destructive, leading him to commit further atrocities and alienate those around him.

Shakespeare masterfully portrays Macbeth's flaws through his soliloquies and interactions with other characters. In Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth debates whether to proceed with the plan to murder Duncan, revealing his internal struggle between his ambition and his conscience. He acknowledges the consequences of his actions, stating, "I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on the other." This soliloquy highlights Macbeth's awareness of the moral implications of his actions, yet his ambition ultimately triumphs over his conscience.

Furthermore, Macbeth's flaw is further emphasized through his relationship with his wife, Lady Macbeth. Although she is often seen as the driving force behind Macbeth's actions, it is ultimately his unchecked ambition that leads him down a path of destruction. Lady Macbeth merely serves as the catalyst for Macbeth's descent into darkness, appealing to his ambition and manipulating him into committing regicide. Thus, Macbeth's tragic flaw is not solely influenced by external forces, but rather stems from his own internal desires.

The Internal Struggle of Macbeth

Another characteristic of a tragic hero is their internal struggle, as they grapple with the consequences of their actions and the moral implications of their choices. Macbeth's internal struggle is evident throughout the play, as he battles with his own guilt and the realization of the atrocities he has committed.

After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth is plagued by guilt and hallucinations. In Act 2, Scene 2, he famously exclaims, "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?" This powerful imagery highlights Macbeth's overwhelming guilt and the impossibility of washing away the consequences of his actions. As the play progresses, Macbeth's guilt intensifies, leading to a descent into madness and paranoia.

Additionally, Macbeth's internal struggle is reflected in his soliloquies, which provide insight into his conflicted state of mind. In Act 3, Scene 1, Macbeth contemplates the necessity of further violence to secure his position as king, stating, "To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus." This soliloquy demonstrates Macbeth's realization that his position is precarious and that he must continue to commit acts of violence to maintain his power. However, his internal struggle is evident in his uncertainty and fear of the consequences of his actions.

The Downfall of Macbeth

Ultimately, the tragic hero must face a downfall as a result of their tragic flaw and internal struggle. For Macbeth, this downfall comes in the form of his own undoing and the realization that his actions have led to a loss of everything he holds dear.

Throughout the play, Macbeth's actions become increasingly ruthless and desperate, as he attempts to secure his position as king and maintain his power. However, these actions only serve to alienate him from those around him, leading to his ultimate downfall. In Act 5, Scene 5, Macbeth reflects on the futility of life and the meaninglessness of his own achievements, stating, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage." This soliloquy encapsulates Macbeth's realization that his pursuit of power has ultimately been in vain.

Furthermore, Macbeth's downfall is also reflected in the play's conclusion, where he is ultimately defeated and killed. This serves as a reminder of the consequences of unchecked ambition and the destructive nature of power. By the end of the play, Macbeth is a tragic figure, stripped of his humanity and left to face the consequences of his actions.


In conclusion, Macbeth can be seen as a tragic hero, defined by his tragic flaw, internal struggle, and ultimate downfall. His unchecked ambition serves as his tragic flaw, driving him to commit heinous acts in his pursuit of power. Macbeth's internal struggle is evident throughout the play, as he battles with guilt and the moral implications of his choices. Ultimately, his downfall is a result of his own actions and the realization that his pursuit of power has led to his own destruction.

The character of Macbeth serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the dangers of ambition and the consequences of succumbing to one's darkest desires. By examining Macbeth as a tragic hero, we gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature and the potential for both greatness and downfall within us all.

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Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2012.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Macbeth As A Tragic Hero Analyzed. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
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