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Macbeth lecture: Psychology of Evil
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Why does Macbeth kill?

After the brutal murder of Duncan Macbeth looses his morals. He’s willing to continue in the same course of horrible action, even if it means that he will bring upon himself even more suffering. It is a point of no return for Macbeth, and he changes from being a well-respected man with courage into a coward (murders the sleeping and defenceless Duncan) full of fear. It is because of this growing fear and his uneasy mind that he continues to kill: His later killings are probably more motivated by his psychological paranoia than actual political considerations or concrete threats.



Not pure evil & ‘tragic-hero-quality’
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In a tragedy, the hero posses something the audience can admire. It might not necessarily make us like him, but at least feel a little bit sympathy for. But Macbeth is an egocentric mass murderer killing innocent friends, colleagues and children, often for no other reason than his own desires, so why do we keep our attention focusing on him?
The answer is his horrifying determination. Even though he suffers terribly, he stays focused on his goal. Macbeth is trying to kill his way to some final solution. We are fascinated by his increasingly unsuccessful attempts to resolve the inner pain that he created himself, and his perseverance makes him a heroic figure.


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Compared to Lady Macbeth

There’s a big difference betweenMacbeth and his wife. She thinks they can wash their hands, put the murderous daggers back and thenbe clear from the murder of Duncan without any consequences - she underestimates the psychological costs of the homicide. Lady Macbeth lacks the determination that Macbeth posses, which means that she can’t escape the inner torment (the sleepwalking scene is the clearest sign of this). As a result of this she falls completely apart andin the end kills herself.


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Dehumanization

When Lady Macbeth dies, Macbeth’s reaction is very low key and unemotional. This is a clear sign of how his life has become futile. We witness Macbeth’s gradual dehumanization – each murder makes him a bit less human. His loss of relationships with others is accompanied by the meaninglessness of life, and he doesn’t care about anything life has to offer anymore. He might reach his desire when he becomes king, but his life has no value any longer. There’s no one to blame but himself, and he learn the truth too late to change anything. As a last proof of his frightening willpower, he decides to take charge of his own death. He doesn’t want to win the final battle. The life he has created himself leaves him with no other choice.




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The Witches

In Macbeth evil is a permanent feature of the landscape, manifested in the witches. They can tempt everyone to set their own desire over the communal values. They punish those whom they successfully tempt by giving them what they want, living up to their promises, only to reveal just how empty and self-destructive life becomes for those who surrender to their egocentric desires.


Source:
http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/eng366/lectures/macbeth.htm