Ambition or Inaction:
Comparing the tragic flaws of MacBeth and Hamlet
William Shakespeare’s MacBeth and Hamlet are studied, read and performed in parallel of each other, when examining them together one can draw a moralistic message from the author. Their similarities lie within the structure of the plays themselves, however all Shakespeare plays share the five-act structure. It may be noted that the action of both plays begins with the supernatural. In Hamlet, the ghost of King Hamlet appears before Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo and in MacBeth the witches are seen prophesizing MacBeth’s fate. However, any other similarities beyond this point should be considered accidental and unrelated. It is the format of tragedy and the tragic hero. The hero of any tragedy must be flawed, because it is the flaw that will in the end lead to their downfall. By comparing the main characters, therefore the tragic heroes, of MacBeth and Hamlet we can draw some deeper meaning out of them.
In the first act of MacBeth, it is quickly established that MacBeth is a noble Scotsman (properly called a Thane) and loyal warrior. This is seen in The Captains referral to MacBeth as “Brave MacBeth (he deserves that name(Act1 Scene 2)”. It should also be noted that the King of Scotland, King Duncan, holds MacBeth in such high esteem that he stays at his castle, something that is not common amongst royalty. This begs the question on how MacBeth fell from grace. Simply, it is his ambition. When MacBeth encounters the witches for the first time, the three of them greet him by a different title. The first witch addresses him by his proper title “Thane of Glamis”. The second witch addresses him as “Thane of Cawdor”. And the third witch addresses him as “King hereafter”. Immediately following the witches’ disappearance, MacBeth is proclaimed Thane of Cawdor. By having the first prophecy fulfilled, MacBeth assumes the second one must be fulfilled as well.
By assuming he has the power to...