Tragic Hero Macbeth & Oedipus
According to Aristotle, he defines tragic hero as someone who has a nobility status or a powerful man with some greatness and outstanding qualities within himself. As can be seen in almost plays, tragic heroes are always being portrayed as someone that occupy a high status but must also illustrates nobility and virtue as part of his or her innate characters, (Poetics from Aristotle). However, these heroes are not all perfects. There will be some tragic incidents that eventually lead them to the downfall. This is due to the heroes’ own faults and in fact, in some cases the tragic incidents are usually triggered by some error judgments or some characters’ flaws that could contributes to the hero’s downfall. “Hamartia” or the error of judgments is also known as “tragic flaw” is one of the sixth qualities from tragic heroes according to Aristotle.
Other than that, an overwhelming self-confidence or in Greek tragedies, it is known as “hubris” also one of the factors that leads to the downfall of the hero. Furthermore, another idea of Aristotle regarding tragic hero is that the tragic downfall is not solely a pure loss but there is some great lessons and values that can be gained from the tragic hero himself. Even though eventually there will be a tragic ending to the characters however, according to Aristotle the tragedy does not leave its audiences in a state of depression. He argues that solemn emotions such as sad, fear and pity that aroused are one of the functions of the tragedy through catharsis.
According to Aristotle also true tragic hero must have six key qualities and these are hamartia, hubris, anagnorisis, peripeteia, nemesis, and catharsis. Anagnorisis is a recognition or discovery made by the tragic hero. In other words, the tragic hero will learn a lesson, usually as a result of his downfall. For example, Oedipus kills his father in ignorance and then learns of his true relationship to the King of Thebes,(Ley Graham,1991). Peripeteia is a reversal of fortune, the downfall of the tragic hero and it occurs when a situation seems to developing in one direction, but then suddenly “reverses” to another. For example, when Oedipus first hears of the death of Polybus (his supposed father), the news at first seems good, but then is revealed to be a disastrous, (Ley Graham, 1991).
According to Ben Johnson in his Modern Day Tragic hero articles, (2007), Nemesis is a fate that cannot be escaped. Meanwhile, catharsis is a feeling of overwhelming pity and or fear that the audience or reader is left with after witnessing the downfall of a tragic hero, Aristotle has quoted, “A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” Thus, from my understanding of what Aristotle means by this quote is that people must discover the main points that lead them to the failure and after that, they can be their own protagonists or heroes for their own life. They can stand high back when they overcome their failures.
In Oedipus Rex play, Oedipus, the main character is the tragic hero in this play. As according to the character of Oedipus, Aristotle says that a tragic hero must be an important or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who must then suffer the consequences of his actions. In this play, Oedipus originally is a hero because of his good deeds, sacrifices and contributions that he had made for his people.
He had his highest moment of glory in this play but it did not last long as eventually he had been destroyed and experienced a terrible downfall due to his own actions which he had committed earlier. For example, those actions were seen when Oedipus forces Teiresias to reveal his destiny and his father’s name. When Teiresias tried warned Oedipus by saying “I say that you and your most dearly loved are wrapped together in a hideous sin, blind to the horror of it” (Sophocles 428). Oedipus still does not care and proceeds with his questioning as if he did not understand what Teiresias was talking about.
In this play, Oedipus had successfully solved a riddles from the Sphinx with an exchange of the freedom for the people of Thebes from her curse. As a reward for freeing the people of Thebes, Oedipus married the newly widowed Queen Jocasta without realizing that she was his own biological mother. Thus, unintentionally he had fulfilled one of the prophecies. What made it worst was that Oedipus even had a child with Queen Jocasta, his own mother.
By the time he had realized that he was actually fulfilling the prophecies from the oracle but at the same time he was also being glorified as a hero by his people. He had killed King Laius before, without knowing the facts that the king and his then wife, Queen Jocasta had a child who had been ordered death by the king and the child was being prophesized to kill his own father and he will be together with his mother.
Eventually, he learnt the truth that the abandoned child was himself and he was actually succeeded in fulfilling those prophecies. This was a turn of event because when he was initially thought that he was actually a hero to his country and people with all the deeds and contributions that he had made but it turned out that all those were actually a journey or a path to his own disaster and miserable in life.
At first King Laius, Queen Jocasta and Oedipus were trying to avoid the prophecies as far as possible and made it impossible however, the more they tried to run from it they were actually ran toward the prophecies. All that happened were unconsciously done without knowing the real truths like how Oedipus had killed his own father and married with his own mother. Therefore, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he had been manipulative and deceived by the good deeds that he had done.
Lastly, he gouged his eyes out so that he could not see the truth anymore with such a big embarrassment that he faced and he was a blind man with so much hatred towards himself of what he did. Hence, from my opinion Oedipus can be categorized as a tragic hero as he fulfills the requirements of a tragic hero according to the ideas of Aristotle. He is a noble and powerful man but experiences a terrible downfall due to his own faults. He had such a disaster and miserable ending.
In Macbeth play, from my opinion, Macbeth himself is considered as a tragic hero. Macbeth also fulfills the definition of tragic hero by Aristotle as he says that a tragic hero must be an important or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who must then suffer the consequences of his actions. Macbeth is a man of nobility and high status but he come across a bad consequence at the end of the play due to his own mistakes and then suffer from it.
It was all started with the prophecies from the three witches that told Macbeth he was to be Thane of Cawdor, Thane of Glamis and King of Scotland. After hearing about these prophecies, Macbeth was very curious and desirable to know on how and what ways that he could be The King of Scotland. Then, Macbeth began to believe and relied on the prophecies of the witches. It was like the prophecies were kept haunting Macbeth and it enlightened the dark curiosity of Macbeth which slowly overshadowed his character. If the witches did not convey the prophecies towards Macbeth at first place, it would not be any initiative persuasion that could lead Macbeth into taking the dark path.
Besides, Lady Macbeth, the wife of Macbeth was also a big factor that made Macbeth turned out to be evil. Audiences were all being deceived and manipulated by the first impression that Lady Macbeth gave for them as a very lovely and demure woman. It was her actually who persuaded Macbeth to continue with the planned on killing King Duncan.
Macbeth was actually kind of regretted when he first killed King Duncan but his wife had provided a strategy about murdering the king. Macbeth was a little bit of hesitated after the first murdering but the only way to maintain his power of his people was by murdering the king and it was the only path that he could seen. From this, it can be seen that Macbeth’s downfall and tragic also contributed by other characters.
Apart from that, Macbeth’s new ambition has completely changed himself to a totally different person. This ambition has totally turned him into a greedy, violence and heartless person. He had a heart to kill King Duncan just because of the greed to the throne. The Lady Macbeth also influenced Macbeth’s ambition because if it was not for his wife that motivated Macbeth for killing then it would be less desirable for Macbeth to take over the throne because he will failed the attempted to murder at the first place. Thus, all these factors toward Macbeth were greatly influenced the real-self of Macbeth. At the end, Macbeth has been lead to the terrible tragedy and downfall.
In conclusion, both tragic heroes above are all from the nobility status and they begin with someone that can be considered as the hero and the savior of their people but because of their own faults, they create the downfalls by themselves without they realize it. Both heroes’ downfalls are from the same problems that are because of they believed some ridiculous prophecy that they rely on. Their downfalls have affected the people who live under their reigns. Because of their own fault, they also give punishments to themselves, for example, Oedipus blinds himself as a punishment of his wrong doings.