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“What was Macbeths tragic flaw, how does it lead to his doom, and is it helped along by the ladies of the play?” eNotes Editorial, 31 Dec. 2020, https://www.enotes.com/topics/macbeth/questions/what-was-macbeth-s-tragic-flaw-how-does-it-lead-86737. Accessed 15 Sep. 2022.
Macbeths tragic flaw is ambition. Despite being showered by honors and titles by a grateful King Duncan, its somehow not enough. He wants more, and is prepared to stoop to murder and treachery to get it.
Even so, Macbeth needs a little help to realize his ambitions. When it comes to actually following through, he gets cold feet about murdering Duncan and needs the assistance of his devious wife—who, if anything, is even more ambitious than he—to make it happen. Lady Macbeth cajoles her husband and questions his manhood when it appears that hes not prepared to go through with the murder plot. Had it not been for her, theres every reason to expect that Macbeth wouldve backed out at the last minute.
The Weird Sisters also play their part in encouraging Macbeths ambitions. Their prophecies appear to provide a supernatural sanction to Macbeths base treachery. Over the course of the play, Macbeth becomes so obsessed with the witches prophecies that he starts to feel almost invulnerable. Not only did the witches prophesy that Macbeth would be king, they also predicted that only a highly unlikely event—the marching of Birnam Wood against him—would precipitate his fall. This seemingly unlikely prophecy only adds to Macbeths confidence that he cannot be defeated by his enemies.
Macbeths fatal flaw in the play is unchecked ambition, that is a desire for power and position, namely to be king, which is more important to him than anything else in life. He is willing to give up everything that he has in his life in order to possess the crown to sit on the throne.
Yes, the ladies in the play do have something to do with it. The ladies include, the witches, the three in the beginning, as well as the queen of the witches, Hecate, and Lady Macbeth.
What happens to Macbeth is a combination of events that lead to the opportunity to seize power. He is influenced by the women in the play, the witches, who give him a prophecy that contains information that he will be king of Scotland. The witches dont give him a time table for his ascension to the throne, just that his future holds this for him.
He becomes so thrilled with the idea that he will be king, that he begins to think that he should be king right now. Even though he has been a loyal servant to King Duncan, he becomes angry when he sees the king elevate his son Malcolm and proclaim him as the heir apparent to the throne of Scotland.
Macbeth is also influenced by his wife, Lady Macbeth. In fact after Macbeth has thought about killing King Duncan, and had time to consider the witches prophecy, he decides that he doesnt want to kill the king. Then once he tells his wife about the prophecy, she becomes so thrilled with the idea of being queen that she begs and pleads with him to convince him that he should kill the king, that he will have a singular opportunity when the king visits their home that evening. It is perfect, she says, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Then, she actually insults him, demeans him, accuses him of being less than a man if he doesnt have the courage to kill the king. She is so vicious towards Macbeth that he finally agrees to kill the king.
Once he does kill the king, he begins to unravel, mentally and emotionally. As a king, he is stricken with a serious case of paranoia. He believes that everyone is trying to kill him to take his throne, so he keeps murdering. First he gets rid of Banquo, unfortunately, the killers dont kill Fleance, who is e Banquos son. Then after he goes to see the witches again, he is given another set of prophecies, and he decides to kill Macduff. He sends murders to kill Macduff, he is not at home, so the murderers kill his entire family instead.
All of Macbeths activities as king contribute to his doom or his undoing. He is a terrible king, a tyrant who is feared. Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne, joins forces with Macduff and the King of England who provides soldiers. Macbeth is confronted by Macduff, the only man capable of killing him, and he is killed and Malcolm is put on the throne.
Macbeths major tragic flaw is his ambition, as he himself reveals in his soliloquy in Act I, Scene 7:
It is Macbeths ambition that causes him to kill the King, an act that leads to his downfall. But Macbeth is also very trusting and easily persuaded. It never dawns on him until the climactic final scene that the witches might be misleading him by telling him he is essentially invincible. They are telling him what he wants to hear, and he never really questions them–indeed, he bases all of his actions on their prophecies. Lady Macbeth also easily persuades her husband to carry out the murder of the king, even when he has, after careful consideration, decided to put it off for awhile. Macbeth, while a very powerful man, allows himself to be led by others. That these “others” were female would have suggested to Shakespeares audiences a weakness of will that they would have seen as an inversion of the natural order.
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Analysis: Macbeth As a Tragic Hero
Why would we consider Macbeth a tragic hero? Macbeth is one of Shakespeares most famous examples of a tragic hero, though there is debate as to whether he is a “hero” in the traditional sense. At the start of the play, he has his ambition, but he is also a respected and loyal soldier working for King Duncan. He ascends to power via multiple murders and instigates a war, actions that are certainly villainous. Macbeth, though, fits with Aristotles definition and experiences guilt, meaning he understands his actions are wrong and made without proper thought. He never gets the chance to redeem himself, either.
However, if we could consider Macbeth a tragic hero, why not consider Lady Macbeth a tragic hero, too? Her character is often depicted as a dangerous temptress, and unlike Macbeth, she understands what they must do for Macbeth to become king. She experiences guilt later, but she starts off understanding her actions far more than Macbeth and never waivers. Macbeth, on the other hand, actually had doubts about what needed to be done.
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