Help! Comparing othellos and macbeths flaws which lead to their downfallWatch
For Macbeth, at least, there's an argument (I think) to be made about fate vs. freewill. The witches seem to know the future, because they tell Macbeth that he will become King of Scotland. But if he's fated to do it, is any of this really his fault? Could he have done any differently?
At the same time, you might question whether the witches in fact know the future. Remember their first words (when they are talking among themselves): 'When shall we three meet again?' If they could actually tell the future, wouldn't they already know this? So maybe we're wrong to think that Macbeth is fated to do all this? Maybe the witches are just lying?
Another interesting aspect of all this is when the witches say to Macbeth later, which is: 'All hail, Macbeth'. This is interesting if you consider another dramatic form that was popular in England from about the Norman Conquest (1066), and was dying out just as Shakespeare came to the fore. This dramatic form was called the Mystery Play.
Mystery Plays were re-enactments of scenes from the Bible, such as the Fall of Man, the Flood, the Crucifixion, etc. Originally they were performed as part of the church service to keep (bored, illiterate) people interested, but then they came to be performed on village greens, etc.
Sometimes Mystery Plays presented the Biblical scene of the Last Supper (i.e. Jesus' last meal with his disciples before his Crucifixion). In these plays, it was traditional for Jesus to greet Judas with the words 'All hail, Judas', in just the same way as the witches in Macbeth say: 'All hail, Macbeth'. What's going on here (it has been argued) is that Shakespeare is making us compare Macbeth with Judas. And the big philosophical question with Judas at this time was this: if Judas was fated to betray Jesus, how can we blame him? He had no other choice, so why should he burn in Hell for all eternity?
Conclusion: Maybe Shakespeare is not interested in characters having 'fatal flaws' which lead to their downfall. Maybe he's more concerned with undeserved tragedy, especially when that tragedy is fated to happen (e.g. in Macbeth), or when your tragedy is the result of someone else entirely (e.g. in Othello).
Just a thought...