In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth are both examples of tragic heroes who possess a tragic flaw. According to Webster's dictionary, a tragic flaw is defined as "a flaw in character that brings about the downfall of the hero of a tragedy." Macbeth held within his character the flaw of ambition, as well as moral weakness and selective perception, which eventually contributed to his untimely death. In Lady Macbeth's case, the main fault that brought about her destruction and final suicide was greed, along with an ignorance and repression of the emotions that contradicted this desire. Both characters began in high positions and, throughout the play, accumulated losses caused by their own weaknesses in personality.
There is already evidence of Macbeth's inborn ambition in the beginning of the play in the fact that he holds a high position as the Thane of Glamis and is an acclaimed general in the army. But further evidence of this trait comes in his reaction to the prophecies of the three witches. While many others would have avoided talking to witches for their obvious affiliation with evil, Macbeth hears what they have to say and responds with curiosity, saying, "Stay, you imperfect speakers. Tell me more." (Act I. Scene iii). This is also an example of his other flaw, hearing only what is beneficial to his ulterior motives. .
In the early stages of the play Macbeth is able to keep his ambition in a controlled state. His actions have brought no harm to him nor to the other characters of the play. In the next scene, however, there is indication of a slight overstepping of boundaries when King Duncan gives Macbeth the title of Thane of Cawdor and announces his son Malcolm as the Prince of Cumberland and the next in line to the throne. Macbeth, seeing an obstacle and a contradiction to his previous conclusion that "if chance will have me king, why chance may crown me without my stir," realizes that his only path to the throne would be to rid the kingdom of Duncan and his son.