Hubris Leads to Tragedy


According to Aristotle all great tragic heroes have hubris, a Greek word meaning excessive pride, which takes a good quality to extreme and leads to the characters demise. Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's most famous tragic heroes, has the wonderful qualities of being a brave and valiant warrior but his hubris is overwhelming ambition and leads him to tendency of self-doubt.

When Macbeth opens, the audience is introduced to Macbeth by a wounded captain. The captain relays the story of the battle from which he has just returned and describes how the brave Macbeth defeated Macdonald. Macbeth's bravery as a warrior is his prized quality. Macbeth's flaw is exposed to the audience when he first visits the witches. Macbeth has overpowering ambition, so much ambition that he always doubts his own actions and this weakens him. As the play progresses, Macbeth tries to confine his self-doubt by believing heavily in the Witches' prophecies. As Macbeth hears the Witches' prophecies, he feels horrified at the thought of killing Duncan but his ambition pushes him to accept what the Witches predict. When Macbeth and then Lady Macbeth learn about Duncan's plans to have his son Malcolm succeed him, Lady Macbeth feeds the fire of Macbeth's ambition and creates a plan for Macbeth to murder Duncan and take the crown. Again, Macbeth's over-ambitious tendencies lead him to do something that he would not normally even think of doing. After Macbeth has murdered Duncan, his ambitious side fades slightly but he continues on his path of murders to gain more and more power. Once Lady Macbeth dies Macbeth is confronted by inner turmoil, his ambition compels him to continue to murder and gain more power, but his valiant soldier personality will not allow him to be a selfless murderer. At the end of the play Macbeth believes himself to be invincible; he is blinded by the prophecies of the witches and his own ambitions, so he takes unnecessary risks for even more power. When Macduff finally comes to confront Macbeth, Macbeth's arrogance and over- ambitious nature leads to his demise as he is beheaded.

Macbeth was blinded by the witches' prophecies and his hubris-affected ambition takes his good quality of being a brave and ambitious warrior to the point of unreasonable action. Macbeth exemplifies the definition of a tragic hero; he has a good quality of being a courageous fighter, but his over-ambitious inclinations, his hubris, is his undoing. Shakespeare's Macbeth exemplifies Aristotle's observations of what makes a meaningful and complex tragic play and Macbeth is the perfect tragic hero.

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