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Macbeth An Aristotelian Tragic Hero English Literature Essay

In the Poetics, Aristotle devises certain demands for the chief character of a calamity and these have been by and large accepted as the criterion for the character of the tragic supporter. Harmonizing to Aristotle, the tragic hero must non be perfect, but he should be good and like us in order to derive our understanding. He has a fatal defect or tragic flaw that leads him to an mistake of opinion, and so takes topographic point a reversal in which he experiences acknowledgment of the events that led to his ruin. The character of the tragic hero should besides be able to convey about the katharsis, where the audience feels commiseration and fright for the hero. Shakespeare ‘s tragic heroes largely conform to the basic demands of the Aristotelean pronouncement but in some instances he imbues his heroes with certain features because of which they become alone in their ain ways. Macbeth is one such illustration of a hero whose character shows a little divergence from that of the ideal tragic hero, while basically conforming to the Aristotelean rules.

David S. Kastan points out that it is likely that Shakespeare had been either incognizant of or willing to disregard Aristotle ‘s theorization on calamity ( Kastan 5 ) . So Shakespeare may non hold followed the Aristotelean pronouncement in defining his tragic heroes. Yet, Shakespearean tragic heroes seem to about wholly conform to the Aristotelean impression. A.C. Bradley says sing Shakespeare ‘s heroes: ‘They are exceeding beingsaˆ¦ . his actions or agonies are of an unusual sort. But this is non all. His nature besides is exceeding, and by and large raises him in some regard much above the mean degree of humanity. ‘ ( Bradley 13 ) . Macbeth is a character built on a expansive graduated table: he is a individual of high grade in whom “ desire, passion, or willaˆ¦attainsaˆ¦a awful force. ” ( Bradley 13 ) . Macbeth ‘s tragic flaw is his excessive aspiration which leads him to intentionally encompass the way of immorality. In this context Bradley remarks: ‘It is a fatal gift, but it carries with it a touch of illustriousness ; and when there is joined to it aristocracy of head, or mastermind, or immense forceaˆ¦itaˆ¦stirs non merely sympathy and commiseration, but esteem, panic, and awe. ‘ ( Bradley 14 ) . Therefore, at the terminal of the drama, Macbeth emerges as the hero whose calamity evokes commiseration and fright instead than repulsion despite all the immorality that he has committed wittingly.

Shakespeare endows Macbeth with qualities which elevate his villain-hero to the highs of a tragic hero. Kenneth Muir in his debut to the drama Macbeth says that in order to demo how the hero comes to be damned, Shakespeare had to depict and make the good which Macbeth had sacrificed ( Shakespeare 43 ) . Macbeth shows an disposition towards the immorality as besides a desire to reform: his is non a smooth transmutation into criminalism. Macbeth is non innately evil, and Shakespeare highlights the moral struggle within the hero through Macbeth ‘s graphic poetic imaginativeness. In this context Harold C. Goddard says: ‘When a adult male of imaginationaˆ¦stoops to offense, immediately nonnatural powers rush to the scene as if fearful lest this individual title shift the moral centre of gravitation of the universeaˆ¦ ‘ ( Goddard 16 ) . Hence, Macbeth imagines:

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Will all great Neptune ‘s ocean wash this blood

Clean and jerk from my manus? No, this my manus will instead

The countless seas incarnadine,

Making the green one red. ( II, two, 59-62 )

Shakespeare ‘s artistic mastermind helps to procure the audience ‘s commiseration and esteem for the hero by mentioning to his heroic qualities throughout the drama. Macbeth ‘s extraordinary art is repeatedly emphasised – he is referred to diversely as “ brave Macbeth ” , “ Bellona ‘s bridegroom ” , “ Valour ‘s minion ” . Lady Macbeth ‘s words that her hubby is “ excessively full o’th’milk of human kindness ” is an indicant of his innate goodness. Yet, at the same clip, he is extremely ambitious and this aspiration is, harmonizing to Bradley, “ abhorrent to his better feelings ” ( Bradley 294 ) . His passion for power and self-assertion are so intense that he manages to control the voice of his scruples and continue with farther immorality. But Macbeth is, as David S. Kastan points out, excessively sensitive in his consciousness of immorality to be reducible to the moral sketch of Malcolm ‘s opinion: “ this dead meatman aˆ¦ ” ( Kastan 18 ) . In this context G. Wilson Knight says that Macbeth gets: ‘aˆ¦.his grounds and motivations hopelessly incorrect. Macbeth, whose scruples rebellions from the offense, persuades himself that he is a most inhuman scoundrel, and merely frights existent and personal penalty. ‘ ( Knight 136 )

Macbeth himself says:

aˆ¦aˆ¦aˆ¦I have no goad

To prick the sides of my purpose, but merely

Vaulting aspiration, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on th’other- ( I, vii, 25-28 )

Macbeth is absolutely cognizant of the futility of such “ aspiration ” , yet he can happen no better name. One all right reading that has been given as to why Macbeth decides on a class repellant to his inherent aptitudes and logical thinking is that he sets about the slaying “ as an shocking responsibility ” ( Bradley 293 ) . It is as if with the initial offense, Macbeth decides to travel through a kind of self-imposed penalty where he willfully takes resort to evil alternatively of atoning and converts himself into a hard-core felon.

G. Wilson Knight says that Macbeth suffers a province of division, due to conflicting urges, for and against his offense ( Knight 141 ) . Macbeth ‘s mental torture, the continuation of this inward division, prevents any continued success. Macbeth fails in his strategies non so much because of outward events and forces but through the working of that portion of his nature which originally forbade the slaying. Macbeth may hold been ambitious but his aspiration did non ab initio have the unwellness and craze of a hard-boiled felon. Macbeth ‘s extra offenses are in world the result of his agonized scruples. Had he, from the beginning, been a hard-boiled liquidator, he would hold undertaken the act without any interior struggle, and at that place would hold been nil to forestall his set uping himself safely on the throne. Conscience, which had urged him non to slay Duncan, now forces him to slay many others. Kenneth Muir says that Macbeth has non a sensitivity to slaying ; he has simply an excessive aspiration that makes slaying itself seem to be a lesser immorality than failure to accomplish the Crown and so fulfill his married woman ( Shakespeare 48 ) . Macbeth tells his married woman merely before the slaying of Duncan that they should non continue with the slaying: “ We will continue no farther in this concern ” ( I, seven, 31 ) . He besides contemplates:

aˆ¦..that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all- here,

But here, upon this bank and shoal of clip,

We ‘d leap the life to come. ( I, vii, 4-7 )

What we see in these lines is a deep tragic tone which speaks of the hero ‘s tormented scruples which rebellions against the really offense he contemplates. Furthermore, because Macbeth is no hard-boiled felon, he has to pull strings his bodily modules for the act, he has to “ aˆ¦ . flex up/ Each bodily agent to this awful effort ” ( I, vii, 80-81 ) .

Macbeth ‘s agony is heightened farther by his extremely graphic imaginativeness. A.C. Bradley says in this regard that Macbeth has “ the imaginativeness of a poet ” and that: ‘Macbeth ‘s better natureaˆ¦.instead of talking to him in the open linguistic communication of moral thoughts, bids and prohibitions, incorporates itself in images which alarm and horrify. ‘ ( Bradley 295 ) . Macbeth ‘s vision of the natation sticker, the voice that cries “ Macbeth shall kip no more ” , the shade of Banquo, etc. are all figments of his imaginativeness which serve to foreground his torture and anguish and it is exactly this interior torment that helps in deriving the audience ‘s understanding for the hero. Macbeth ‘s psyche speaks to him in the form of his imaginativeness and whenever this imaginativeness is active, we feel the suspense, horror, awe and besides the esteem and sympathy latent in it. In this context John Harvey says: ‘The poesy Macbeth speaks charts with singular nuance and fidelity the wane and flow of his head. It is because we are swayed by this wane and flow that the tragic hero is so close to us. aˆ¦the poesy forces us to portion his experience and to do it our ain. ‘ ( Harvey 32 ) . Macbeth ‘s poesy is one of Shakespeare ‘s greatest victory in his word picture of the tragic hero. His poesy voices cosmopolitan human experience and helps to raise him from the degree of a scoundrel to that of a tragic hero with whom we can associate and sympathize.

Therefore Macbeth can be seen as incarnating the features of an ideal tragic hero – he is neither a perfect nor an innately evil character whose tragic flaw or mistake causes his devolution. Yet it can non be denied that he consciously embraces the way of immorality. The influence of external agents like Lady Macbeth ‘s abetment and the prognostication of the enchantresss could hold been easy ignored by Macbeth. A. C. Bradley opines that Macbeth was free to accept or defy the enticement but the enticement was already within him ( Bradley 288 ) . John Harvey in this context says: “ Macbeth is a free agent, he must take of his ain free will to make evil. ” ( Harvey 35 ) . Therefore the influences of the enchantresss and Lady Macbeth can be interpreted as the outward manifestations of the evil desires built-in in the hero and those desires merely rise into consciousness under these influences. Therefore Macbeth becomes a tragic hero who intentionally renounces the way of good for carry throughing his evil aspirations. Aristotle had regarded the exhaustively depraved evil character as being unworthy of going a tragic hero stating that such a character fails to arouse commiseration and fright among the audience. Macbeth ‘s character is slightly of a divergence from this construct and it is here that Shakespeare adds a different dimension to his tragic hero.

The Aristotelean tragic flaw is an mistake normally caused by the ignorance or carelessness of the hero. Macbeth ‘s mistake is, nevertheless, purposeful and he willfully chooses immorality. Yet Macbeth manages to derive our understanding by the terminal of the drama by his sheer will power and ability to gain the futility of his workss. Bradley says that there remains something sublime in the rebelliousness with which, even when cheated of his last hope, Macbeth faces Earth and snake pit and Eden ( Bradley 305 ) . Macbeth may look to us as a inhuman scoundrel, but at that place remains something expansive about him. There is a tragic magnificence in his labored perversion of the will, in his passion and in his gift of inventive look and all these evoke a feeling of understanding in us. Coupled with this is a sense of waste of the possible that Macbeth had in him. In this context A. C. Bradley says: ‘With Shakespeare, at any rate, the commiseration and fright which are stirred by the tragic narrative seem to unify with, and even to unify in, a profound sense of unhappiness and enigma, which is due to this feeling of waste. ‘ ( Bradley 16 ) .

Therefore Macbeth, despite being nefarious, is non wholly a perverse individual, for he retains our understanding and his calamity does let go of the psychotherapeutic emotions in the audience. It of class requires the mastermind of a Shakespeare to portray tragic scoundrels of this type. Macbeth is a hero who becomes a scoundrel, and in this regard Kenneth Muir remarks: ‘His [ Shakespeare ‘s ] inventive perceptual experience of the human bosom made it necessary for him to look into the stairss by which a baronial and valorous adult male is brought to his damnation, and to show the procedure in such a manner as to elicit our commiseration and panic. ‘ ( Shakespeare 53 ) . Even on the brink of damnation, Macbeth commands our esteem by disputing destiny and confirming his heroism like a true hero: “ Yet I will seek the lastaˆ¦ ” ( V, eight, 32 ) Macbeth is acutely cognizant of his tragic reversal, when he says:

aˆ¦aˆ¦ manner of life

Is fall’n into the sere, the xanthous foliage ;

And that which should attach to old age,

As honor, love, obeisance, military personnels of friends,

I must non look to hold ; but in their position,

Cursesaˆ¦aˆ¦aˆ¦ ( V, three, 22-27 )

It is this self-knowledge that elevates Macbeth from the degree of a condemnable to that of a tragic hero. Macbeth ‘s character is a elusive mixture of good and evil. He is an evil adult male, but he is non the tragic hero who is strictly evil, for a character like that would be neither human nor interesting, as Aristotle had pointed out. Shakespeare makes his hero experience “ the full torment of the moral battle within him ” ( Harvey 31 ) ; if he does evil, at least he realises the full horror of his workss and suffers consequently. Shakespeare deviates from the Aristotelean pronouncement in Macbeth in so far as he takes a scoundrel as his tragic hero but his originative mastermind imparts a certain tragic magnificence to Macbeth, which wins our understanding, thereby doing him suit into the basic Aristotelean paradigm.

( Word count: 2141 )


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