Definition of a Hero

By Jamie Halloran


In every story there is a plot line, a rising action, a climax, and a falling action. But most importantly there are characters that spark a story, these characters are called the villain and the hero. These characters have their own personalities, background, conflicts, and can relate to the readers. Macbeth himself, the main character, is easily manipulated and is turned into the villain, or is he? A hero is usually defined as the one who saves or resolves the conflict of the story, while the villain is the one who causes it.

The Hero

The dictionary definition of a hero is a person (man or woman) who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Some people argue that the hero of Macbeth is either Macduff or Banquo. Both characters show courage and strength against the villain (Macbeth?) of the story. They both try to be the better person and try to resolve the problem Macbeth has started. For example, when Banquo and Macbeth discussed about the three witches they encountered early and what they had said, Banquo tries to warn Macbeth. He tells him that there is more harm than good that the three witches have brought to him, “And oftentimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequences” (Act 1 scene 3, lines 25-28). Banquo is trying to warn Macbeth that the information brought by the three witches are only going to cause trouble and bring him down a path of darkness.
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Out of both characters, Macduff shows more “hero” characteristics. Macduff is suspicious that Macbeth had killed king Duncan. He goes to England to fetch Malcolm (Duncan’s son) to return back to Scotland and defeat Macbeth. It could be said his bravery is what made him do such a risky task. he later finds out that his family has been murdered by Macbeth for leaving Scotland to go get help. Macduff is devastated, but convinces Malcolm to come back and pulls himself together to revenge his wife and children. Lastly, Macduff proves he is the “hero” of the story because he is the one who stops Macbeth’s destructive rain on Scotland by cutting Macbeth’s head off, “I have no words. My voice is in my sword. Thou bloodier villain than terms can give thee out!” (Act 5 scene 8, lines 7-9). In this scene Macduff is threatening to kill Macbeth with his sword. A hero can be either of these men for their act of courage, but what makes some of the other characters villains?

The Villain

The dictionary’s definition of a villain is a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot. Two characters that could be considered villains in Macbeth is Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself. Lady Macbeth is considered a villain in the play because she is the one who manipulates and convinces Macbeth to kill king Duncan, and make the choices he did. Macbeth had doubts about their plan since the very beginning of the play, but Lady Macbeth insulted him and made him feel less of a man, “ "When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man” (Act 1 scene 7, lines 49-51). Lady Macbeth is saying he would be more of a man if he did what he promised and killed king Duncan. She knew Macbeth’s weaknesses of feeling weak and wanting her approval of him, so she used that against him.

Macbeth is seen to be the main “villain” in the play. He becomes so power hungry that he’d do anything to protect his throne. He killed king Duncan to take his throne, he killed his best friend Banquo, Macduff’s wife and children, and killed anyone who he felt threatened by. Everyone was afraid of him and the power he held, he was considered to be evil, but was Macbeth always evil to begin with? It could be said that the three witches were the source of the conflict, leading them to be the real villains behind the whole story. If it weren't for them, Macbeth wouldn’t of had the idea of being king in the first place; First Witch, “All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!”. Second Witch, “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!”. Third Witch, “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” (Act 1 scene 3, lines 50-52). The three witches are telling Macbeth his future and the roles he’ll play, including him being king. This is what started the story and the whole conflict. These are the characteristics that make up a villain such as Lady Macbeth and the three witches, but not entirely Macbeth. So what exactly is Macbeth?


A hero is usually defined as someone who saves the story by doing something heroic that people look up to, while on the other hand, a villain is someone who causes the problems in the story. Macbeth is seen as the villain in the play, but in reality, he is the tragic hero. Shakespeare named the play Macbeth for a reason. It wasn't because he was the villain, but because he was a brave general who got manipulated by the people around him, leading him to choose the wrong decisions. He was influenced by a stronger, darker force (the three witches) and by his lover (Lady Macbeth). Macbeth might have made some bad choices leading him to be seen as evil, but it was only because he was led down the wrong path by stronger forces.

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