Macbeth: Hero or Monster?

An “archetype” is considered to be the original on which many other ideals are based. For example, we have archetypal heroes that often come from ancient mythology. Of course, it isn’t just contemporary society that influences a writer. In fact, one of the major influences on almost all literature is mythology. There are many mythologies, but most are known for having archetypes that many writers will base their own heroes or characters on. If you look at religious writings, literature, movies, and speeches, you will see a lot of influence from archetypal models.

One of the most familiar archetypes in storylines is “banishment from an ideal world.” We see this as the very first story in the Bible and in many ancient mythologies. We can easily use this archetype to begin an analysis of Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth. In it, the character of Macbeth is told of his future as a king of Scotland, and this begins a chain of events that leads to the tragic outcome. In the play, greed ultimately destroys Macbeth’s potentially bright future, and he and his wife are banished from what may have been a glorious life. Time and again, an analysis could demonstrate each of the “wrong turns” Macbeth and his wife made and compare this to the ignored warnings inherent in most of the archetypal stories of banishment from an idealized world.

MacBeth is a character that can be seen as a tragic hero. His downfall was contributed to by the fact that witches told him his prophecy. Lady MacBeth manipulated him and held strong influence over his judgment. In addition to that, his ambition and strong desire to become king leads to his fall. His character starts to decline from that of someone once seen as a noble person to that of a violent man. He becomes a monster because he is victimized by the witches, manipulated by his wife, and brought down by in ambition.

He seems to be the evil villain when he kills his best friend in order to be king, and yet he feels incredible guilt for the acts that he has committed, something that a real monster would not feel. Regardless of his actions, he retains a guilty conscience which continues to taunt him until his death. This guilty conscience is something that follows him from the start of the play, when his first murder is committed, until he ends up a man with twisted morals and twisted faith.