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Macbeth:Concious Villain To Unrepentant Tyrant

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Adam Harrell

English IV

January, 13, 1999

Macbeth: Conscious Villain to Unrepentant Tyrant

Thesis: To trace the degradation of Macbeth from a hero to a conscious villain to an unrepentant tyrant.

I. Macbeth as a Hero.

A. Admired warrior

B. Duncan's Admiration

II. Macbeth as a Conscious Villain

A. First tidings of villainy

B. Murder of Duncan

C. Guilt-Ridden Soliquoy

III. Macbeth as a non-repentant Tyrant

A. Murder of Macduff's family

B. Selfish thoughts of sleep

C. Feelings of Invincibility

Macbeth, like most tragedies tells the fall of the protagonist from grace. Macbeth, originally a hero, degrades into a conscious villain who feels guilt and then into an unmerciful, non-repentant tyrant. A man once heralded as a hero becomes the bane of the land and his people.

At the start of Macbeth we are introduced to him and it is implied that he is a great warrior and a great man. He is the hero of the recent battle and is the subject of rewards from King Duncan. In fact one critic describes him as "A great warrior, somewhat masterful, rough, and abrupt, a man to inspire some fear and much admiration. There was in fact, much good in him ... certainly he was far from devoid of humanity and pity."(Bradley "Macbeth") This paints the picture of an admired, somewhat inpersonable hero who was admired for his bravery and courage. In fact even Duncan, his later victim, admired him. Duncan gives him another kingdom and appoints him the Thane of Cawdor. The captain says of Macbeth to Duncan that:

For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name -- Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution, Like valor's minion carved out his passage Till he faced the slave; Which nev'r shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops (I, ii, 16-24)

These are the words of a man who admires Macbeth, and at this point rightly so. This is the heroic Macbeth of whom we are speaking. Unfortunately Macbeth soon begins his down fall and becomes a conscious villain.

Macbeth degradation to a conscious villain begins with his first tidings of villainy. These tidings begin when Macbeth hears that the Duncan's son is the next in line for kingship. Macbeth says of this:

The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step I must fall down or else o'erleap. For in my way it lies. (I, iv, 47-50)

This is the point at which we see Macbeth start to become a man driven by his ambition for the throne. A man willing to kill for it. From this point in the story Macbeth's villainy is not yet set in stone and is urged onward by his wife's calls of cowardice. Macbeth soon acts on this ambition through the murder of Duncan. However his acts lead him toward a guilty conscious. After he murders Duncan he is haunted by his guilt. He cries out that "I'll go no more. I am afraid what I have done; Look on 't again I dare not."(II, ii, 49-51) In these lines it is clear that Macbeth regrets his action. According to John Andrews this "is his first attempt to bring about a ... transposition (to transpose "the structural conditions of his own mind into the external world"); in parricidal terms making himself the sole sovereign of his world." (Andrews #?) In other words his need for power is so great that his ambition is willing to "o'erleap" his humanity to get what he desires. His guilt from his murderous action



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