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Macbeth tragic hero

Precepts of the tragic hero
An Aristotelian tragic hero must have four characteristics: virtue of birth, nobleness, or
wisdom; hamartia (translated as tragic flaw, but connotes more closely to mistakes or
excess in behavior than to something innate, related to hubris), and a discovery that is
made by his own actions.
In a complex Aristotelian tragedy, the hero undergoes a peripetia, or a turn of fate that
leaves him or her destitute, followed by anagnorsis, a point when he or she comes to the
realization of his or her errors.
The tragic end of the hero ideally, according to Aristotle, gives the audience catharsis, or
emotional purgation.
Some other common traits characteristic of a tragic hero:
He must suffer more than he deserves.
He must be doomed from the start, but bear no responsibility for possessing his
He must be noble in nature, but imperfect so that the audience can see themselves
in him.
He must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to
He must see and understand his doom, as well as the fact that his fate was
discovered by his own actions.
His story should arouse fear and empathy.
Physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.
Ideally, he should be a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his fall
with him.
Macbeth, also considered a tragic hero, does not fit Aristotle's requirements for suffering
more than he deserves, nor was he noble in nature. However, he does fulfill a requirement
that the hero chooses his outcome. For example, despite the prophecy of the Weird
Sisters predicting Macbeth's ascension as "king thereafter," Macbeth chose to kill
Duncane. When the imaginary dagger appeared, he said:
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Clearly, Macbeth was already set to assassinate Duncane. The dagger did not appear to
tell him what to do, since he had already decided. This decision stands in contrast to
Oedipus, who tried to avoid his fate, but failed to do so. As such, Shakespeare presents
the idea of a moral quandrary by presenting a person who willingly does the wrong
Hamartia as Tragic Flaw
Traditionally, it has been interpreted as referring to a 'tragic flaw' in the character of the
protagonist (the tragic hero). More often than not, the tragic flaw is hubris, for example in
Antigone and Oedipus Rex. Shakespeare's King Lear and Brutus in Julius Caesar are
another famous tragic heroes whose flaws are hubris. An example of a protagonist with a
tragic flaw in modern literature would be Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. A more
subtle example would be the fictionalized Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus.
It has been suggested by some that the modern idea of the "tragic flaw" is a
mistranslation of the Greek. An alternative translation is "tragic mistake." This translation
implies that the character makes one fatal mistake based on an incomplete self
knowledge. Those who prefer this interpretation argue that the Greek tragedies contain no
clearly identifiable tragic flaws, and have been twisted to fit the supposed 'tragic flaw'
Regardless of what Aristotle actually meant, the term "tragic flaw" and the ideas behind it
are firmly ensconced within traditional literary criticism.
Hubris in modern times
In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often
associated with a lack of knowledge, interest in, and exploration of history, combined
with a lack of humility. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or
punishment will follow, and the proverb "pride goeth before a fall" is thought to sum up
the modern definition of hubris.[5]