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Breaking Bad is now in its final death throes, and we will soon all see what happens to Walter White and the rest of his crew, not to mention his tortured family. Most well written stories reference great literature, but Vince Gilligan has indeed made some obvious references from Shakespeare that are evident throughout the series. I would like to make 5 observations about Breaking Badthat I feel are ironclad proof that the writers know their Shakespeare…at least Macbeth.
- Skyler White and Lady Macbeth – Many things have been written about Walter White’s wife, but one thing that is true is that she is definitely a shrew. She belittles Walter with her actions more than her words and then with everything that she can muster. She eventually joins Walter in his meth operation, laundering money for him through the car wash. Lady Macbeth belittles Macbeth many times in the play, questioning his manhood and even going as far as insulting him when he carries the daggers out of Duncan’s bedroom. She then, however, helps him with his bloody bid for power even to the point of giving him suggestions as to how to go about it.
- Perceived Invincibility – Walter White and Macbeth both develop an invincibility complex. Macbeth is told by the witches that “no man of woman born” can harm him, so he does deeds that he would otherwise not do because he feels as if he cannot be killed. Walter White makes meth that is over 99% pure, something average meth cooks are not capable of doing because they do not possess his chemistry background. He begins to believe he is untouchable because in his mind all of the other drug lords and cartels know he has the best product. Therefore, to kill him would be to lose that high quality product. This is tested when Jessie learns to make the meth exactly like Walter. Macbeth eliminates every rival, real or imagined, and Walter does the same, spreading out a map of Albuquerque on Jessie’s kitchen bar and exclaiming that “all of this territory is just ripe for the taking.” When Jessie mentions that the other drug lords won’t take kindly to encroaching on their territory, Walter simply states that Jessie now has a “rep” because of crushing the head of a rival with an ATM machine, and that they will “deal with” anyone who stands in their way.
- Driven by Prophesy – Both Walter White and Macbeth receive prophesies about their eventual fates but even when the prophesies do not work in their favor they continue on their downward spiral. Macbeth is told he will become king while Walter is told he will die from lung cancer. Both of these prophesies drive them to courses of action that send them on a path toward evil and depravity. At the start, Macbeth questions the prophesy that he will be king, but then Lady Macbeth spurs him on with insults. Walter’s decision to remedy his family’s financial situation can be seen as somewhat noble, but the means by which he does this are depraved and immoral. Another similarity here is that once Macbeth discovers that Macduff is “no man of woman born” in Act V, he does not back down or stop his fight for control. Walter, when he finds out in Season 2 that his tumor has shrunk by 80%, pounds a paper dispenser in the bathroom with his fist until his knuckles bleed, continuing on his path to control the meth trade anyway.
- Pros and Cons of Murder – Macbeth’s soliloquy in act 2 and Walter’s first deliberate murder are extremely similar. Macbeth weighs the pros and cons of committing murder in his soliloquy in Act I, vii, making a list of reasons why one should and should not murder another. Walter, in the episode “And the Bag’s In the River”, makes a very similar list of pros and cons before going down into the basement to kill Krazy Eight. In Act II, i, Macbeth sees a dagger floating before him, a vision of what he is about to do. Walter re-assembles the broken plate (in the same episode mentioned above) and discovers that Krazy Eight has a broken shard that he plans to use as a dagger, which in essence is a “vision” of a dagger.
- Jessie Pinkman and Lady Macbeth – Another character who has amazing similarities with Lady Macbeth is Jessie Pinkman. In “And the Bag’s In the River”, Jessie teases Walter about killing someone or doing what is necessary, telling Walter “You have to do your part!”, which means he has to go down into the basement and kill Eight Ball. Lady Macbeth belittles Macbeth when he commits his first murder (Act II, ii) taking the daggers from him saying: “Infirm of purpose!/Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead/Are but as pictures: ’tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil.” As Macbeth grows in power and evil, Lady Macbeth shrinks in importance and eventually goes mad, seeing the vision of blood on her hands that will not be washed away, a picture of her guilt. Jessie shrinks in importance as Walter becomes the meth lord of Albuquerque, eventually falling completely into drug addiction so that he becomes useless. Jessie’s “Out, Out, Damn spot!” moment has to be when he begins to fear for his life and hallucinates that two Mormon missionaries are two murderers with machetes on motorcycles in Season 2, the mental damage from his evil deeds and his guilt. Another similarity is that Walter loses all compassion for Jessie when he goes over the edge with drug addiction, going out on his own in pursuit of power and money. Macbeth, when he learns of Lady Macbeth’s death in Act V says “She should have died hereafter; there would have been time for such a word”, refusing to feel anything at all about her demise.
There are many more, so many in fact that the show should probably be called Macmeth. What do you think, Shakespeare fans? Do you see any other similarities between the Bard and the Bad? Post comments below.
Macbeth Essay – the Similarities and Differences Between Macbeth and Lady MacbethGet Your
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Before and After When comparing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to each other, the main similarity between them that must be mentioned is that they both have high ambitions for royalty and greatness. Beside the only one significant similarity, they also differ with two distinct differences. Throughout the play, they both portrayed as evil characters who have committed the deaths of other characters, however the driving force of their cruel behavior are totally different.
The reason that leads Lady Macbeth to her menacing personality was self-denial while Macbeth’s driving force was motivated by his big greed. The flaws each possessed resulted their downfall and this is the last different when comparing Macbeth and his wife. The main similarity that Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth both shared was their high ambition for royalty and greatness. That was also the foundation for committing all the murders throughout the play which are caused by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Due to the prediction of the three witches “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor… shalt be King hereafter” (Act 1, Scene 3).
The prophecies not only triggered the ambitions in Macbeth but also give rises of bigger ambitions in Lady Macbeth. The death of King Duncan portrayed an example in the play that clearly showed how Lady Macbeth delivered herself with her ambitions (Act 2, Scene 2). As all the readers know, the first death in the play, King Duncan, who is obviously killed by Macbeth. To add to this, Lady Macbeth was also the one responsible for the murder of King Duncan. By using Macbeth’s love for her, Lady Macbeth persuades him into killing King Duncan because Macbeth loves and trusts his wife; he is vulnerable to her opinions and temptations.
That is shown in the quote “We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking-place […] who shall bear the guilt of our great quell? ” (Act 1, Scene 7). Because of her ambition of becoming King and Queen, Lady Macbeth’s ambition took over her morality and eventuall ended up whispering deadly words that caused King Duncan’s tragic death. For Macbeth, his ambition was also growing as the play progresses. While the ambition of Lady Macbeth stops after she achieved her desire of becoming the Queen of Scotland, Macbeth was still getting more committed to his great ambition.
The evidences for the great ambition of Macbeth are that he is again committed the next two assassinations of Banquo and Macduff’s wife and son (Act 3, Scene 3 and Act 4, Scene 2). He murdered these people because he was afraid of the predictions from the three witches that might come true: For the prediction of Banquo, three witches said that his son will become King, “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater […]. For another prediction of Macduff, they said that Macbeth should be aware of Macduff, “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff. Beware the Thane of Fife – Dismiss me. Enough. ” (Act 4, Scene 1).
Due to these two predictions, Macbeth decided to kill those people who might be a dangerous threat to his throne. Those two evidences clearly show the Macbeth’s great ambition completely turned him into a very greedy being and a man who lacked human traits as he will do anything, including killing people, just to secure his power. After all, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are the same, they both have high ambitions which are just for achieving their own royalty and greatness.
Although Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are both portrayed as evil characters who have committed to all the murders in the play, their driving force with drove them to their cruelty is totally different to each other which was also the first difference that differ them in the play. Both have the same evil characteristic but for Lady Macbeth, her cunningness is motivated by her self-denial. She thinks for Macbeth that leads her to the decision of killing King Duncan because she wants her husband to become the King of Scotland. Quote “ […] Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here […] nor keep peace between th’effect and it! (Act 1, Scene 5).
In translation, the quote basically said that Lady Macbeth wanted to become a man, less like a woman so she won’t feel remorse, so that no human compassion can stop her evil plan or prevent her from accomplishing it. Through the translation of that quote, the readers infered that she wanted to be stronger because she felt remorse and guilty when she made the decision to kill; which means the humanity still exists in her. From this, it shows that she does not want to kill Duncan unless it is the only way can make Macbeth become the King.
Therefore, right after she achieved her desire, the ambition stopped urging her which was proven by the events in the play that she was not committed to anymore murder after the death of King Duncan. On the contrary to Lady Macbeth, the driving force to the evilness in Macbeth came from his own greed for what he cannot have. At the beginning of the play, he was struggling about whether he should kill King Duncan or not and he seemed to be guilty for his decisions. After the murder was done, Macbeth officially became the King of Scotland. That was when he became more and more ambitious because now he could do anything he wanted to.
Lead by the fire of ambition, Macbeth tried to assassinate Banquo and his son, Fleance, which was an example that really proved to the readers of his greed. Quote “To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus – Upon my head they plac’d a fruitless crown […] come fate, into the list, and champion me to the utterance. ” (Act 3, Scene 1). From the quote stated, they showed that Macbeth was jealous with Banquo whose son will become the King just like in the witches’ prophecies,while Macbeth does not have a son who supposed to take his place as the successor.
Macbeth thought it was not fair because after everything that he had done just for their benefit. To secure his power and protect his throne for himself, once again, Macbeth committed the death of his dear friend, Banquo. From those explanations, Macbeth has completely changed into an evil man because he was too greedy for what he cannot have. At the end of the play, the downfall of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth was their infamous death. However, comparing their downfalls to each other, they were also very different to the expectations of most of the readers.
Their downfall was another difference contributed to the contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Especially for Lady Macbeth, whom planned the murder of King Duncan and tried to convince her husband to get rid of the guilt and to follow her scheme. Before the butchery started, she showed herself as a cruel, assertive woman when dealing with her husband’s hesitation about the murdering of King Duncan which was shown in the quote “When you durst to do it, then you were a man […] had I so sworn as you have one to this. ” (Act 1, Scene 7).
The audience was lead to believe that Lady Macbeth will never feel any guilt concerning the murder, but her guilty conscience was displayed near the end of the play. She began to sleepwalk and relived the murder in her mind. Quote “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One; two; why, then tis time to do’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord—fie! a soldier, and afeard? ” (Act 5, Scene 1). During the course of the play, Lady Macbeth was portrayed as a tough character, through her actions with her husband, her own opinions of the murders, and finally she tried to cope with her obvious guilt.
The guilt of the murder now has become unbearable for her and at the end, her unexpected downfall happened as she killed herself. On the contrary with Lady Macbeth, Macbeth showed his fear and guilt when dealing with the murder of Duncan which is shown in the scene of that he saw the imaginary dagger. At first, Macbeth’s intentions would have been less serious if his wife was not more anxious than he was. Not as assertive as his wife, Lady Macbeth uses his love for her to pressure him to follow her plan, therefore, he was forced to murder Duncan; pushed by his wife therefore it is partly Lady Macbeth’s fault for Macbeth’s downfall.
However, as the story progresses, the more inhumane and fearless Macbeth became as well as the body counts that he caused began to rise. For example, after the death of King Duncan was the death of Banquo and Macduff’s family was also the victim of the Macbeth’s rage. He seems to become forgotten the simple human feelings and emotions. The quote, he states, “I have almost forgotten the taste of fears: The time has been my senses would have cooled to hear a night-shriek and my fell of hair would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir. ” (Act 5, Scene 5). He even cannot feel fear as he realized Malcolm’s army are going to invade him soon.
He further showed how he was immune to human emotion in the following moment, when he was told that Lady Macbeth had died. Macbeth reacted coldly by saying “She should have died hereafter. ” (Act 5, Scene 5). Those are some evidences clearly showing the unexpected changes of Macbeth as his downfall escalated. At the end of the play, the last downfall that Macbeth had to bear was his headless death (Act 5, scene 8). Overall, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have only one same similarity and that was that they both have high ambitions and greeds for royalty and greatness, and this was the main cause for committing the murders.
In the play, the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth unfolded in an already passionate marriage. They are grounded by their love and would do almost anything for each other, therefore, it was also the driving force of Lady Macbeth’s evilness which came from the self-denial. While the difference was Macbeth’s evilness was just motivated by his greed.
They also differed from each other in their different downfalls at the end of the play. Lady Macbeth was an assertive, cruel woman at first which lead the readers to believe that she will never be obsessed about her guilt like er husband, but at the end, the downfall is that she has to take is her guilt and death. While Macbeth at first showed his fear and deep guilt for the murder of King Duncan. Later on in the tragedy, Macbeth’s downfall was his unexpected changes of becoming fearless and an inhumane person.
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Author: Cari Minns
Macbeth Essay – the Similarities and Differences Between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
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