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Macbeth Tragic Hero Essay Prompts

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, the play ''Macbeth'' has much to offer students. This lesson will help you consolidate and enhance your students' understanding of the play by providing essay questions about Macbeth as a tragic hero.

Why Tragic Hero Essay Prompts?

Are your students reading Shakespeare's Macbeth? This play is challenging for many students, but it can help get them thinking about timeless themes ranging from the importance of ambition to the role of guilt in human experience and behavior. The play also offers a supreme example of many literary norms and devices.

As the protagonist of a tragedy, Macbeth is a tragic hero, a literary concept initially described by Aristotle. A tragic hero like Macbeth is in many ways beloved by his audience and those surrounding him in literature, yet he causes his own downfall because of a tragic flaw. Many would argue that Macbeth is a tragic hero because of his problematic ambition and the way it gets to him. Though others contribute to Macbeth's downfall, he must ultimately take responsibility for it himself.

If you want to get your students to think about Macbeth as a tragic hero and to learn more about what a tragic hero is in literature, you may want to have them write essays. Writing essays can be a great way for students to express their own opinions while relying on textual evidence to back them up. Essays are also a great way to practice the writing process, organization, and mechanics. The essay prompts in this lesson are designed to help your students write about Macbeth as a tragic hero.

Tragic Hero Essay Prompts for Macbeth

Following are some essay prompts to help students consider different aspects of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as a tragic hero.

Is Macbeth a Tragic Hero?

Research Aristotle's definition of 'tragic hero' and the four criteria that make someone a tragic hero. Then, write an essay convincing readers either that Macbeth does or does not meet the criteria of a tragic hero. Use specific evidence from the text to back up your point of view. If you are arguing that Macbeth is not a tragic hero, be sure to reference specifically which criteria he does not meet. If you are arguing that he is a tragic hero, show how he does meet enough of the criteria to qualify.

What Is Macbeth's Tragic Flaw?

Define Macbeth's most tragic flaw as you see it. Then, write an essay describing this flaw and how it shows in Macbeth's personality. Demonstrate clearly and specifically how this flaw leads to his downfall. Use as much evidence as you can to show how this flaw influences and motivates Macbeth's behavior in the play.

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