tragic figures. The writer compares and contrasts Macbeth and Arthur Dimmesdale as "tragic figures." Their lives, their ideas and the things that happen to them all contribute to the tragic figure persona. There were 10 sources used to complete this paper.
Throughout history authors of literature have used their works to make their characters evoke emotion in the readers hearts. One of the most emotion evoking characters in works of literature is the tragic hero. The tragic hero is a hero in actions and tragic in the flaw that makes him or her human after all. The tragic hero is the character that struggles with human flaws or emotions while at the same time acting in heroic ways. The ways of a tragic hero are often about warriors and the ability to fight but this is not always the case.
At other times the tragic hero is the one who performs a feat outside of war but a feat that is for the good of the greater whole. There are two classic works of literature that display the life of a tragic hero. The story of Macbeth by William Shakespeare and the story of the Scarlet Letter by Nathan Hawthorne each show the reader a character who turns out to be a tragic hero.
Many tragic heroes display courage as well as dignity and humility (Simple pg).
Over the years there have been many experts who studied the works and the authors. William Shakespeare's work has been scrutinized as well as Hawthorne's. In the case of the Scarlet Letter Hawthorne psychologized the doctrines of Puritan faith and with that accomplishment he managed to make Arthur Dimmesdale into a tragic hero (Barna PG).
There has been a tendency among scholars since the 1950s to turn Hawthorne's best-known work, The Scarlet Letter, into a resurrection story, and a character in it, Arthur Dimmesdale, into a Christ-like figure. When on the scaffold the guilt-ridden Dimmesdale confesses his affair with Hester Prynne, a married woman, say these scholars, the minister's redemption in the eyes of God is complete (Barna PG)."
Arthur Dimmesdale scourges himself and fasts "more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome" (chapter 11), but his beliefs seem to remain Protestant and Puritan. Being too true a Calvinist to believe his good works could win him forgiveness, Dimmesdale tells Hester "the good which I may appear to do, I have no faith in it," and Hester, with her self-reliance and with her faith in free will and the efficacy of good works, tells him he has "deeply and sorely repented" by his "good works" (chapter 17) (Reiss pg). After Dimmesdale publicly confesses his guilt, as he is about to die (he never clearly confesses the adultery he committed with Hester), Hester says to Dimmesdale:
Surely, surely, we have ransomed one another with all this woe" (chapter 23) (Reiss pg). The idea of ransoming one another from the penalty of sin is heretical to both Papist and Puritan, and Dimmesdale cautions her and then says: "God knows; and He is merciful! He hath proved his mercy, most of all in my afflictions (Reiss pg)."
The above shows the very human qualities of the pastor when he confesses sins and when he commits the sins.
There have been many versions of the play produced and in each one the pastor becomes a tragic hero (Greneir PG).
The Scarlet Letter was the perfect setting for the tragic hero of Dimmesdale because it ends in tragedy as well. The tragedy of death and loneliness are central to many themes including those that have tragic heroes in them (Beckerman PG).
When one compares the tragic hero qualities in The Scarlet Letter to the qualities in Macbeth one can see that there are many differences as well as similarities. Each of the characters in the stories are fitting as tragic heroes even though they display those qualities in different ways.
The various companies that put on the play of Macbeth use the script to display Macbeth as a tragic hero (Dunbar PG 19).
The first hint that Macbeth is a tragic hero begins at the start of the story. Witches chant and perform spells and are told they are going to meet Macbeth. Macbeth will become a tragic hero and the evidence will be laced throughout the story (Shakespeare PG).
One if the strongest evidences of Macbeth being a tragic hero is the fact that he is filled with contradictions. The powerful contradictions in the character of Macbeth are typical to that of a tragic hero. He is willing to murder a king to further his own agenda, which proves he is tragically flawed. Being tragically flawed is a requirement for someone to be considered a tragic hero. Because he kills the king and his best friend there is tragedy of cruelness.
Because he is a hero of tragic measures he also has a conscience about his evil deeds and those deed torment him as he continues seeking power. The two elements, conscience but the willingness to commit crimes and violence for the purpose of success in his endeavors make him a tragic hero.
Most tragic heroes are also criminal in their actions. It is why most tragic heroes are in stories that are set long ago. If the same men did the same crimes today they would be considered criminals and they would be sought for justice. Macbeth commits murder against the king who is a relative and then his best friend. He even attempts to have the son of his best friend murdered but he escapes. Because kings are appointed by God the murder of the king is something that clearly defines Macbeth as a tragic hero in his willingness to commit crimes to further his own agenda.
When he sends men to murder Mac duff and his wife and family he further entrenches himself in the label of tragic hero (Shakespeare PG). The next way he displays the qualities of a tragic hero is his desire to hang on to the power he attains.
Once he gets the crown, though it is by deception he keeps it by deception as well. He spreads rumors and lies about the true deserver of the crown so that he can maintain the power of the throne. He also plants spies in the homes of the nobles (Shakespeare PG). These actions are for the purpose of maintaining the power he has taken by committing murder and receiving the crown.
All of the things Macbeth does make him look like an ogre, more than a hero. The reason he is a tragic hero is the combination of the tragedy and the heroic acts. The tragedies are of course the actions he takes to become powerful.
He pleads and argues with Lady Macbeth about killing Duncan and then is tormented with guilt about its accomplishment.
All of the crimes and the greed mixed in with the guilt are what make Macbeth a tragic hero.
When the character of Macbeth is contrasted and compared with the character of Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter they are each similar in the fulfillment of requirements to be called tragic heroes though the motivations are not the same.
While Macbeth is greedy for power and authority, and therefore commits his crimes to attain it, the pastor in The Scarlet Letter is only motivated by lust and love. He does not want power over others, he already has that through being a pastor. He is driven to commit the crime of adultery because of his desire to have sexual relations with Hester. He is also driven by his need to hang onto the power that being a pastor gives him. This is evidenced by the fact that he refuses to step forward for a very long time and admit he is the father of Hester's child.
He and Macbeth have the desire to retain power in common as well as the attempt to do so through the use of deception and lies. Dimmesdale does not admit to being an adulterer because he will lose his position as the pastor and will lose the power that gives him over the village (Hawthorne PG).
Macbeth refuses to admit to murder because it will remove him as the new king and will take away the power he has over his subjects. In this way the two are the same. They differ however in their tragic crimes as well as the goal of those crimes. The story of Macbeth clearly points to power over others out of fear while Dimmesdale wants to maintain the power he has over the village residents through their admiration and love of the pastor. Dimmesdale also had to wrestle with hubris.
Because he was a preacher he believed himself t be so important to those who lived within the village that if he was shown to be the criminal that he was it would destroy the entire village. This exaggerated self importance…
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