tragic flaw in macbeth: hamartia

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Tragic flaw in Macbeth: HAMARTIA

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In classical tragedy the protagonist faces his downfall because of his tragic flaw which means the inherent traits of his characterDEFINITION OF TRAGIC FLAW

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TRAGIC FLAW/HAMARTIA

Macbeth as a Tragic HeroIn Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth are both examples of tragic heroes who possess a tragic flaw. According to Webster's dictionary, a tragic flaw is defined as "a flaw in character that brings about the downfall of the hero of a tragedy." Macbeth held within his character the flaw of ambition, as well as moral weakness and selective perception, which eventually contributed to his untimely death. In Lady Macbeth's case, the main shortcoming is her destruction and final suicide was greed, along with an ignorance and repression of the emotions that contradicted this desire. Both characters began in high positions and, throughout the play, accumulated losses caused by their own weaknesses in personality.

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THE THREE WITCHES

UNDERSTANDING THE PLOTACT 1

ACT 1

The play takes place in Scotland. Duncan, the king of Scotland, is at war with the king of Norway. As the play opens, he learns of Macbeth's bravery in a victorious battle against Macdonalda Scot who sided with the Norwegians. At the same time, news arrives concerning the arrest of the treacherous Thane of Cawdor. Duncan decides to give the title of Thane of Cawdor to Macbeth. As Macbeth and Banquo return home from battle, they meet three witches. The witches predict that Macbeth will be thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland, and that Banquo will be the father of kings. After the witches disappear, Macbeth and Banquo meet two noblemen Ross and Angus, who announce Macbeth's new title as thane of Cawdor. Upon hearing this, Macbeth begins to contemplate the murder of Duncan in order to realize the witches ' second prophecy.

Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches for the first time

ACT 1

Macbeth and Banquo meet with Duncan, who announces that he is going to pay Macbeth a visit at his castle. Macbeth rides ahead to prepare his household. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth informing her of the witches' prophesy and its subsequent realization. A servant appears to inform her of Duncan's approach. Energized by the news, Lady Macbeth invokes supernatural powers to strip her of feminine softness and thus prepare her for the murder of Duncan. When Macbeth arrives, Lady Macbeth tells him that she will plot Duncan's murder. When Duncan arrives at the castle, Lady Macbeth greets him alone. When Macbeth fails to appear, Lady Macbeth finds him is in his room, contemplating the weighty and evil decision to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth taunts him by telling him that he will only be a man if he kills Duncan. She then tells him her plan for the murder, which Macbeth accepts: they will kill him while his drunken bodyguards sleep, then plant incriminating evidence on the bodyguards.

Macbeth meets King Duncan: "Welcome hither. I have begun to plant thee and will labour to make thee full of growing."

Lady Macbeth taunts him by telling him that he will only be a man if he kills Duncan

UNDERSTANDING THE PLOTACT-2

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

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Duncan reminded Lady Macbeth of her father was as he slept

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ACT 2

Macbeth sees a vision of a bloody dagger floating before him, leading him to Duncan's room. When he hears Lady Macbeth ring the bell to signal the completion of her preparations, Macbeth sets out to complete his part in the murderous plan. Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to finish the act of regicide. Macbeth enters, still carrying the bloody daggers. Lady Macbeth again chastises him for his weak-mindedness and plants the daggers on the bodyguards herself. While she does so, Macbeth imagines that he hears a haunting voice saying that he shall sleep no more. Lady Macbeth returns and assures Macbeth that "a little water clears us of this deed" (II ii 65). As the thanes Macduff and Lennox arrive, the porter pretends that he is guarding the gate to hell. Immediately thereafter, Macduff discovers Duncans dead body. Macbeth kills the two bodyguards, claiming that he was overcome with a fit of grief and rage when he saw them with the bloody daggers. Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain, fearing their lives to be in danger, flee to England and Ireland. Their flight brings them under suspicion of conspiring against Duncan. Macbeth is thus crowned king of Scotland.

Macbeth kills King Duncan while he is drunk and asleep

The next morning, the murder is blamed on the guards. Macbeth kills them before they can protest, explaining that he killed them out of rage. The Kings sons, however, are still fearful for their lives and run away. Macbeth is crowned king. Macbeth knows that Banquo is suspicious of him. When Macbeth learns that Banquo and his son are out of riding, he sends men out to kill them. They are only half successful in their job, and Banquo is empty because hes dead/ In the empty seat, the ghost of Banquo appears, frightening Macbeth badly.

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UNDERSTANDING THE PLOTACT 3

ACT 3

In an attempt to thwart the witches' prophesy that Banquo will father kings, Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. Lady Macbeth is left uninformed of these plans. A third murderer joins the other two on the heath and the three men kill Banquo. Fleance, however, manages to escape. Banquos ghost appears to Macbeth as he sits down to a celebratory banquet, sending him into a frenzy of terror. Lady Macbeth attempts to cover up for his odd behavior but the banquet comes to a premature end as the thanes begin to question Macbeth's sanity. Macbeth decides that he must revisit the witches to look into the future once more. Meanwhile, Macbeth's thanes begin to turn against him. Macduff meets Malcolm in England to prepare an army to march on Scotland.

After Banquo is murdered, his spirit appears to Macbeth at the banquet

Macbeth instructing the murderers employed to kill Banquo

THE APPARITIONS

ACT 4

The witches show Macbeth three apparitions. The first warns him against Macduff, the second tells him to fear no man born of woman, and the third prophesizes that he will fall only when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane castle. Macbeth takes this as a prophecy that he is infallible. When he asks the witches if their prophesy about Banquo will come true, they show him a procession of eight kings, all of whom look like Banquo. Meanwhile in England, Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by pretending to confess to multiple sins and malicious ambitions. When Macduff proves his loyalty to Scotland, the two strategize for their offensive against Macbeth. Back in Scotland, Macbeth has Macduffs wife and children murdered.

The murder of Lady Macduff and her children

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UNDERSTANDING THE PLOTACT 5

In Act IV and V, Lady Macbeths guilty conscious completely takes over her and she begins to become mentally unstable because of how guilty she feels. Shakespeare shows the complete destruction of Lady Macbeth and emphasizes his want for the reader to not remember her actions, but rather how they affected her.

Heres the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh (5.1.140)

In this scene, Lady Macbeth is depicted as having gone insane over her faults. She states that nothing will make her hands smell good again.

In one of the final scenes, the reader learns that Lady Macbeth has died due to her guilty conscious figuratively eating away at her. Shakespeare places a different perspective on Lady Macbeths death by illustrating the extreme extent to which her guilt affected her and wants the reader to not judge her for her mistakes because she essentially paid the ultimate price for her actions. He wants us to pity her because she didn't even kill the king herself, but she felt so guilty for her husband's actions because she is a good person deep down.

ACT 5

Lady Macbeth suffers from bouts of sleepwalking. To a doctor who observes her symptoms, she unwittingly reveals her guilt as she pronounces that she cannot wash her hands clean of bloodstains. Macbeth is too preoccupied with battle preparations to pay much heed to her dreams and expresses anger when the doctor says he cannot cure her. Just as the English army led by Malcolm, Macduff, Siward approaches, Lady Macbeths cry of death is heard in the castle. When Macbeth hears of her death, he comments that she should have died at a future date and muses on the meaninglessness of life.

Taking the witches second prophecy in good faith, Macbeth still believes that he is impregnable to the approaching army. But Malcolm has instructed each man in the English army to cut a tree branch from Birnam Wood and hold it up to disguise the armys total numbers. As a result, Macbeth's servant reports that he has seen a seemingly impossible sight: Birnam Wood seems to be moving toward the castle. Macbeth is shaken but still engages the oncoming army.

In battle, Macbeth kills Young Siward, the English general's brave son. Macduff then challenges Macbeth. As they fight, Macduff reveals that he was not "of woman born" but was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb (V x 13-16). Macbeth is stunned but refuses to yield to Macduff. Macduff kills him and decapitates him. At the end of the play, Malcolm is proclaimed the new king of Scotland.

Northumbria invaded Scotland to support Prince Malcolm Canmore against Macbeth of Scotland, who usurped the Scottish throne from Malcolm's father, King Duncan

SIWARD INVADES

Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking

"Birnam Wood" marches toward

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