The Pride of the Characters Willy Loman and Macbeth

Any great accomplishment can make someone feel proud about their work. It makes one feel good; it raises a person’s spirits. “No question, pride has its good points.” (The Toronto Star, Nov 1999) Then again, there are also the bad points of pride one must consider, before being proud. Pride can deceive a person into being ambitious, and make them strive for something that is not rightfully theirs. Both Macbeth and Willy encountered this problem. Pride can also cause a bad relationship with the people one loves most. For Macbeth and Willy, their relationships with their families were burdened as a consequence of this pride. Pride can lead to much worse things; it can put a person in a position to be their ultimate cause of their death, and such was the fate for Willy Loman and Macbeth. “It’s an excess of pride that buys you one-way, economy coach passage to the fires of hell.” (The Toronto Star, Nov 1999) In the play Macbeth and Death of a Salesman, both Macbeth and Willy are seen as tragic heroes due to their pride, as seen in these three situations.

First, both characters’ pride swindled them into believing they could be so much more than they were meant to be, it made them ambitious. In any monarchial country, such as Scotland, the greatest achievement would be the crown. When King Duncan announced that Malcolm, his son would succeed him, Macbeth’s vaulting ambition made him believe that “this is a step, On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap.” (Macbeth, Act 1, Sc. 4, ll. 49-50) His pride forced him to want to be king. Willy, who also has an excessive amount of pride, told his wife that “if he keeps it up he’ll be a member of the firm”. (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 85) This small compliment paid to Willy by his boss is misinterpreted, taken much too seriously, and because of it he turns down a very good business offer from his brother Ben. Ben offered Willy the chance to go to Alaska to run a logging company, but because of that one compliment, and his pride causing him to embellish, he told his brother he could not go because he was “building something with this firm”. (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 85) Willy’s pride exaggerated that one compliment from his boss, Old Man Wagner, ridiculously, making him yearn for the wrong goal. Instead of staying in New York, Willy should have gone to Alaska with his brother. Macbeth, after being crowned Thane of Cawdor, thinks to himself “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor. The greatest is to come” (Macbeth, Act 1, Sc. 3, ll. 117-118) Even with all he has accomplished, Macbeth’s pride makes him want more. Both Willy’s and Macbeth’s pride caused them to be ambitious.

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Second, in each play, both characters’ pride caused undue hardship and stress on their relationships with their families. Willy had big hopes for his son Biff. He dreamed of him becoming a football superstar saying to his friend Charley “They’ll be calling him another Red Grange. Twenty-five thousand a year.” (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 89) Willy had done this to Biff all his life. Because of these high hopes, when he did not succeed, Biff believed he had failed, which made him feel terrible. He eventually realized “he’s a dime a dozen, and so is Willy” (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 132) This infuriate Willy, and he exclaimed “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!” (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 132) Willy truly believed he was big. Biff crushed this belief with the peak of his argument, saying, “Pop, I’m nothing! I’m nothing, Pop. Can’t you understand that? There’s no spite in it any more. I’m just what I am, that’s all.” (Death of a Salesman, Pg. 132-133) With that said, Willy no longer cared about those high hopes for Biff, and just left the argument alone. Having family problems alike, is Macbeth. After Duncan’s murder (caused by Macbeth’s pride), Macbeth’s relationship with his wife withered away. She believed they were “dwelling in doubtful joy.” (Macbeth, Act 3, Sc. 2, ll. 7) from that point on, the couple could not have been bothered to even sit together as Lady Macbeth has to ask Macbeth “Why do you keep alone?” (Macbeth, Act 3, sc. 2, ll. 8) This is not the relationship of a happy couple. In both plays, due to pride, important family relationships have fallen apart.

Finally, the pride of both characters, Macbeth and Willy, was the cause of their deaths. Macbeth’s pride made him feel that he was invincible, when he really was not. He stayed to fight an entire army by himself, instead of fleeing. He believed that “Our castle’s strength will laugh a siege to scorn.” (Macbeth, Act 5, Sc. 5, ll. 2-3) This stupid act almost ensures Macbeth’s death. Willy’s problems on the other hand were monetary. “Willy Loman is a man whose perspective is so clouded by pride that he would rather maintain the false appearance of success than accept repeated offers of job offers from his neighbour Charley.” (The Toronto Star, Nov 1999) This pride forced Willy to take a coward’s way out. He believed if he killed himself, his twenty thousand-dollar life insurance policy would be paid out to his family. He foresaw his son Biff being able to do something with his life if he had that money. “Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?” (Death of a Salesman, Pg.135) Soon after saying this, he killed himself in a car accident. Macbeth’s suicide is just as ridiculously unnecessary, as he stayed to fight Macduff to the death; meanwhile, his pride blinded him from the fact that Macduff was the one man that could kill him. He cried out “Lay on Macduff, and damned to him that first cries ‘Hold, enough!’” (Macbeth, Act 5, Sc. 8, ll. 33-34) For both characters, their pride was ultimately the cause of their deaths.

“The deadliest of the seven deadlies.” (The Toronto Star, Nov 1999) holds very true in the situations of Macbeth and Willy. For both, their pride tricked them into ambition. It also placed stress on their relationships with their families. These two character’s pride could not have done anymore damage, as it was the cause of their deaths. The three situations aforementioned exhibited Willy Loman and Macbeth as tragic heroes, the cause being their pride. “As the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder – and farther – they fall.” (The Toronto Star, Nov 1999)

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The Pride of the Characters Willy Loman and Macbeth. (2018, Nov 13). Retrieved from