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Macbeth: His Tragic Flaw As the last of William Shakespeare's four great tragedies, Macbeth is a play based more on character than deed. Set in feudal Scotland, the play deftly develops each of the main characters, molding their traits and qualities into an intricate masterpiece surrounding Macbeth, the central character. The play is a journey along the life of Macbeth, capturing him at the apex of his career and following him until his just demise. What causes his sudden deterioration? How does this "worthy gentleman" regress into the ranks of amorality (I.ii.24)? One school of thought attributes Macbeth's degeneration to ambition. Although Macbeth is not lacking in that quality, there lies a greater force within his psyche. "Throughout the main action of Macbeth we are confronted by fear" (Knight 125). This fear permeates Macbeth--utter cowardice which drives his will into the sinful acts resulting in his regression. Cowardice, not ambition, is the main and underlying factor which causes M! acbeth to kill Duncan, to murder Banquo and to seek the aid of the witches.The murder of Duncan is roused more by fearful confusion than by Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" (I.vii.27). After hearing the witches' prophetic greeting, Macbeth is lulled into a "fantastical" state of mind (I.iii.139). He ponders regicide which "[s]hakes [his] single state of man that function / Is smother'd in surmise" (I.iii.140-41). During the events heralding Duncan's murder, Macbeth undergoes five changes of mind before deciding that "[they] shall proceed no further in [that] business" (I.vii.31). The hesitation to kill Duncan is the first symptom of Macbeth's fearful confusion.What causes Macbeth to suddenly change his mind and kill Duncan? Macbeth is a weak man whose "dearest partner in greatness" is his wife (I.v.10). He values her opinion above all else. After rejecting the murder plan, Macbeth is the victim of a storm of insults from Lady Macbeth: Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem. (I.vii.39-43) His fear of her scorn augments the confusion within his "heat-oppressed brain", causing him to hesitantly agree to the conspiracy (II.i.39). Macbeth, too rapt within his own fear to maintain rational reasoning, becomes a pawn of his fear-born confusion, leaving his mind no other option than killing Duncan. Had the murder been caused by ambition, Macbeth would not have been so hesitant in his actions. He would have had a clear goal and saw a crown instead of the "air-drawn dagger" which was the "very painting of [his] fear" (III.iv.62-63). Therefore, Macbeth's regression is spurred by a fearful frenzy, not the over-ambitious plotting of a rational man.Macbeth's fear sustains his murderous rampage as he plots the murder of Banquo and Fleance.During every ascension, there exists a period of upheaval in which rulers must cleanse their...

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