Tragic Hero Comparison Essay

924 words - 4 pages


Every culture influences its members and there are common characteristics of people in every culture throughout the world. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart are separated by three centuries and yet Macbeth and Okonkwo have the same tragic flaws. Culture has a major influence on the development of tragic flaws, and although the cultures differ, tragic heroes remain constant.
Macbeth’s and Okonkwo's tragic flaws are influenced by their individual cultures. Cultural beliefs in Scotland during the 1600s include supernatural ideas such as witches and how they could predict the future. The third witch says to Banquo and Macbeth "All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!" (1.3.50). When Macbeth is told that he is going to be king of Scotland, he is driven by his vaulting ambition of becoming king and fulfilling the witches prophecy through killing everyone in his way of the crown. In Scotland during the time of Macbeth, heroes were celebrated and a king’s prestige was based on success as a war leader, but Macbeth was not voted into monarchy. Macbeth tells himself, “I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other” (1.7.25-28). Macbeth wanted to be king of Scotland and according to the witches he would be, he just had to kill Duncan, for no good reason except for his own self gain and to cover himself of the suspicion that would rise when he seized the throne. Okonkwo who is part of the Ibo culture in the 1950s values strength and prosperity and also fears failure. The Ibo culture thinks of fear as a weakness, but Okonkwo's fear of being thought of as weak led to his demise. When Okonkwo was taken into the forest with Ikemefuna, he was "Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak" (52). Influenced by the culture, Okonkwo’s tragic flaw; fear of weakness leads him to takes the action of killing his foster child which has a lasting affect on his personal beliefs and his attitude towards wanting his daughter, Ezinma to be a boy.
Despite a difference in culture, Macbeth and Okonkwo both emerge as tragic heroes driven by a want to be powerful and a fear of being overpowered. At the beginning of the play we see that Lady Macbeth is the stronger compared to Macbeth when she said,“Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here”(1.5.50). Knowing that she is a woman and that her husband is weak she calls upon the spirits to give her strength to go through with the plan of killing in order to get to the throne by taking away her femininity....

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