A tragedy is consists with pity and fear. According to A.C. Bradley, tragedy is “a tale of suffering and calamity conducting to death”. The tragic hero is an exceptional man and his suffering is also exceptional. Everybody has a feeling of pity when the tragic hero suffers.
The hero of a Shakespearean tragedy is invariably an exceptional person, who stands in a high position, Macbeth throughout the play is presented as an extraordinary being overall and thus he fulfils the basic requirements of a tragic hero. Shakespeare introduces him as brave general, king’s cousin, worthy gentleman, ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’, ‘a very eagle among the sparrows’, and ‘a lion among the hares’. But his down fall is less sympathetic than that of Othello, King Lear and Hamlet. As a sinner Macbeth’s position is not better than that of Milton’s Satan.
Macbeth’s tragedy is a ‘tragedy of ambition’. The witches have chosen Macbeth as their victim because he has a secret desire to become the king of Scotland. This is his motivated desire, which makes him to murder Duncan. This thought revives in his mind when Duncan declares the nomination of Prince Malcolm as the successor of the Scottish throne. Macbeth finds that his chance of becoming the ruler is slipping away and he plans to take early action.
Duncan’s decision to visit Macbeth’s castle gives him the ultimate opportunity to fulfill his latent desire. But he still suffers a moral conflict between his ambition and his conscience. In this tragic consequences Macbeth’s ambition overpowers his conscience to murder Duncan, who is then his guest, lord, and overall his kinsman. After murdering Duncan, Macbeth becomes the new king but he commits another crime by murdering Banquo. In the banquet scene Macbeth is led by fear and guilt. The appearance of Banquo’s ghost creates fear in the mind of this great general. But he commits another error by murdering Lady Macduff and her child. Now Macbeth became a ‘dead butcher’. Women’s cry does not touch him. On hearing the death news of his wife Macbeth says—‘I have almost forgot the taste of fears’ -as he almost lost his sense of feelings. He reviews his own life which to him is a tale told by an idiot. In his famous ‘tomorrow and tomorrow’ soliloquy, he muses on the vanity of life.
A messenger arrives with the news that Birnam Woods have begun to move. Macbeth realizes that his end comes. In facing Macduff on the battlefield Macbeth feels that he has already done enough harm to Macduff, but it was too late. Then Macbeth comes to know that Macduff is not born of woman, Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped. Macbeth fought Macduff bravely but soon beheaded. Here the tragedy finished.
In the whole course of drama Macbeth walks through the path of shadows and he digs his own grave. He is a potential anti-hero who begins as a hero but ends as a villain! The downfall of Macbeth is totally acceptable and unavoidable!