There comes from a noble birth, but is

There is a difference
between a tragic hero and an epic hero. A tragic hero comes from a noble birth,
but is not necessarily held to a higher standard by society. Since there is no
structure on how this hero should be viewed by commoners, this “hero”
unfortunately has a flaw which ultimately brings them to their tragic downfall,
forcing them to accept the consequences that follow. An epic hero, on the other
hand, is known to be charismatic, noble, brave, and admired for great achievement
from their grand events. Both an epic hero and a tragic hero are similar
despite their major differences about morality and overall goals.

Macbeth, the main
character in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth,
is a tragic hero. Whereas, Beowulf, the main character in Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, is an epic hero. The tragic
play of Macbeth and the epic poem of Beowulf share the literary concept of
having the hero as the protagonist. Although the two stories were written in
different time periods, the context shares many similarities as well as
differences.

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Macbeth and Beowulf
both hold traits of being overly confident, which is seen through their
actions. Although the two share this similarity, they approach gaining higher
power and personal challenges in a manner of impulsivity that is unique to
their respective character. Macbeth, Thane of Cawdor, and Beowulf, Thane of
Geats, both can thank their overconfidence for the titles they obtain. Beowulf,
from the beginning, was able to hold his title as king because he is considered
to be proud, fearless and overall a good warrior. Macbeth uses outside help,
the witches, and his cunningness to trick everyone and this makes him overconfident
and boastful. Beowulf has always been the stronger of the two given the fact he
developed his confidence as a young boy, whereas Macbeth only gained his
confidence after he assassinated King Malcolm and was able to get away with it.
Needless to say, both believed their life was untouchable and could never be
taken away, but eventually this overconfidence was the ultimate reason for their
demise.

Macbeth has many
character traits that amplify his flaws – he has a large sense of ambition,
pride,imagination and insecurity as a man that contributes to his end. His
unnaturally large amount of ambition is even acknowledged by himself in Act 1
Scene 7: “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting
ambition which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’other..”. This scene refers to
Macbeth’s motivation to kill Duncan, who is the King . Macbeth’s ambition is
the central force for almost all of his actions in the play, and the witches play
on this ambition.

Macbeth’s insecurity is
another one of his character flaws. Macbeth can “prove” his manliness on the
battlefield easily; however, Lady Macbeth’s knowledge of Macbeth’s lack of
manliness in other areas allows her to easily manipulate Macbeth to kill the
king. In Act 1 Scene 7, after Macbeth makes the tentative decision not to kill
Duncan, Lady Macbeth starts to question Macbeth’s manhood by stating, “When you
durst do it, they you were a man.” Lady Macbeth then continues to taunt Macbeth
leading Macbeth to question what would happen if they fail and Lady Macbeth
continues to bring him down by stating that she will make the plan and take
care of the murder.

From the moment that
Macbeth decides to live a lie in Act 1 Scene 7 “False face must hide what false
heart doth know,” the audience knows he has condemned himself. They know his thoughts
in the soliloquy earlier in the same scene (Act 1 Scene 7, Lines 1-28) will
come true – the killer is damned for eternity and the killer will be killed.
The audience immediately feels a pang of pity for the once valiant man, now so
obviously on a trail of self-destruction. 

Beowulf on the other
hand, thrives from his characteristics of bravery, loyalty, honor, and
strength. He is a man who is willing to risk his life for his people as well as
the greater good, which is a trait that Macbeth is not able to relate to. The
characteristics that Beowulf shows are exemplified further in Beowulf’s great
deeds. When Beowulf agrees to fight Grendel, a monster who has already been
beaten up by countless numbers of men, Beowulf’s success in killing Grendel
displays how his strength and bravery make him a hero and how he puts the safety
of his people before his own. Beowulf also showed heroism and courage when he
decided to go to Hrothgar’s kingdom despite hearing horrific stories about the
damage that Grendel was causing. He not only puts himself in danger but he also
chose to put himself in an unfamiliar environment to bravely face a horrendous monster.
His epic heroism does not end there though, he ultimately sacrifices his entire
life as he fights a dragon with the final intention of protecting his own
kingdom. Something that Macbeth would not be able handle due to his
selfishness.

Therefore, Macbeth and
Beowulf both have a striking amount of overconfidence that both leads them to
put themselves in difficult situations that lead them to make impulsive
decisions. Although it can be interpreted that Beowulf is more of a conqueror
than Macbeth, both characters live up to their literary definition of hero. It is
clear to understand that the mistakes that these two characters have made led
them to their successes as well as their major flaws. Without these personality
flaws, both Beowulf and Macbeth would not have been able to die surrounded in
what makes them unique to their books. 

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