Ironically, it is precisely this respect and honor that trigger Macbeth's corruption—coupled, of course, with the witches’ prophecy, which accurately predicted his new title and promised much greater rewards besides. This pairing of prophecy and realization amplifies Macbeth's ambition. Although many critics see Macbeth's ambition as a classic example of a tragic flaw, others dispute whether Macbeth's lust for power is, in fact, a tragic flaw. Shakespeare scholar Jesse M. Lander notes that in the play ambition and treachery are not unique to Macbeth. Instead, they "permeate the entire world of the play." On this reading, even though Macbeth possesses an unusual concentration of it, ambition is not so much a fatal flaw as part of the social fabric.
Although in many respects the play follows the classic definition of tragedy,
Restoring order to the land requires Macbeth's death. And although Macbeth does eventually die for his crimes, he remains unusual as a tragic protagonist in that, from the very beginning of the play, he willingly embraces evil despite also recognizing that it will result in his "deep damnation" (1.7.20). This contradiction creates an important interpretive problem. How can we, as an audience, empathize with such a reprobate protagonist? Or, put another way, how is it possible for the play to feel tragic when the protagonist so obviously deserves his downfall?