Claudius and Macbeth: A Comparison between a Villain and a Tragic-Hero
This article compares Claudius who is generallyconsidered as a tragic villain with the tragic hero Macbeth and brings out the astonishing similarities between them. Both of these tragic characters are driven by their ambition to become the head of their land. This tragic flaw created havocfor them and others involved with them in their personal and public life. The positive qualities of Claudius and Macbeth can make the readers feel that these characters deserve the kingship than anyone else. They are true to themselves andfeel guilty for their murderous act. They have similar flaws, hubris, insolence and bravado. This article demonstrates how the reading of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth from acounter perspective brings out an interesting revelation about the two tragic figures namely Claudius and Macbeth who are generally considered as poles apart from each other since theyare seen from one particular angle negating or turning blind to the possibility of other perceptions.
Tragedy; Tragic villain; Tragic hero; Tragic flaw; Shakespeare; Macbeth; Claudius; ambition; hubris; insolence; murder; perspectives
JLCMS [ISSN: 0974-7192 (Print)]
Hubris in Macbeth is the result of his confidence in the witches' prophecies. Throughout the play, they tell him what he wants to hear, and as a result, he believes he is indestructible. He is especially taken by the prophecy that "no man of woman born" was capable of destroying him, and that he could not be defeated until "Birnam Wood" marched up the hill to his palace. He hangs his hat, as it were,...
Hubris in Macbeth is the result of his confidence in the witches' prophecies. Throughout the play, they tell him what he wants to hear, and as a result, he believes he is indestructible. He is especially taken by the prophecy that "no man of woman born" was capable of destroying him, and that he could not be defeated until "Birnam Wood" marched up the hill to his palace. He hangs his hat, as it were, on each of these cryptic statements, and it turns out that this is a big mistake. We see how confident he is at the beginning of Act V, Scene 3, when he says:
Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane
I cannot taint with fear. What's the boy Malcolm?
Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know
All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus:
“Fear not, Macbeth; no man that's born of woman
Shall e'er have power upon thee.” Then fly, false thanes,
And mingle with the English epicures!
He is stunned to learn, in Scene 5, that Birnam Wood is indeed advancing on Dunsinane. Malcolm's me, it turns out, have cut branches off of trees, and are marching on the palace carrying them in front of them to obscure their numbers. It looks like the forest itself is marching to destroy Macbeth. Shortly thereafter, he is still somewhat confident in his success when he says a line that turns out to be the height of hubris, telling Macduff that he has "a charmed life, which must not yield/To one of woman born." Macbeth replies that he, in fact, was not "of woman born," but was actually "untimely ripp'd." In other words, he was not born naturally, but by Caesarian section. So Macbeth's confidence in his "charmed life" and the witches' prophecies turned out to be completely misplaced. This is, in short, hubris.