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A tyrannical leader is one who has absolute power derived from oppressive or brutal use of force. It is one not chosen by others or appointed by divine rights, but rather one who takes the power without restraint by laws either moral or mortal.
A Benevolent Monarch:
A benevolent monarch is one who reins over a kingdom with the purpose of goodwill. He is one who has preeminent power. He works for the purpose of doing good.
A leader may be either, or both, a tyrant and benevolent, although not at the same moment. This describes Macbeth. He was both a benevolent monarch and a tyrannical leader within his reign. The difference occurs in the source.
This paper will focus on the traits of a tyrannical leader and a benevolent monarch as described by Shakespeare in Act IV, scene iii, and demonstrate how they apply to Macbeth and other characters involved in the play. Furthermore, this paper will address how the characteristics are magnified depending on which source is being reviewed by the reader.
Shakespeare outlines the traits of both a tyrant and a benevolent monarch in the dialogue between Malcolm and Macduff in Act IV, scene iii.
“Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name…my lust, and my desire….” (Pg. 73)
Here Malcolm lists those traits, which he proclaims to have which he truly does not. These are the traits Shakespeare sees as those of a tyrannical leader. One who is extravagant and greedy in his ways. A tyrant is a leader who leads through lies and deceit that lacks patience or empathy. Shakespeare sees a tyrant as one who is evil and sinful; one who lusts after women and desires all things that are not his.
A benevolent monarch, on the other hand, would be one who possesses none of the traits of a tyrant. One who has kingly graces would be,
A benevolent leader is one who comes from divine right. He would be truthful, generous, and humble in his actions. His motives would stem from honor and a desire for the greatest good.
In Holinshed’s accounts, Macbeth is portrayed as an ambitious captain; however, he reins for nearly 10 years as a benevolent monarch/leader. He acts for the common good and leads the people in his service through good times. Even in the act of killing Duncan, Holinshed has Macbeth staying somewhat distant by having his “trustie friends” the chief of which is Banquho, do the actual murder of Duncan and carry away his body form his own castle.
When Macbeth is seen as a tyrant, Holinshed shows Duncan and Banquho as benevolent to emphasize just how “bad” Macbeth had actually become. Macbeth does not kill Banquho or Duncan out of some revengeful or wounded reasons; he kills them out of mere greed and ambition. He is planful of their assassinations.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is shown as nothing but evil. His tyrannical state is elaborated on by Shakespeare by the fact that he personally kills Duncan with his own hands. Furthermore, he has no reason to kill Duncan. It has already been shown that the revelations of the three witches will come true, but Macbeth interferes anyhow due to his greed. Macbeth is not a rightful king; he was not selected by divine intervention and therefore has no right to the crown. Shakespeare shows Macbeth as finding “such sweetness by putting his nobles thus to death…” Only an evil, sinful man could find enjoyment in the act of killing.
As usual, Shakespeare has taken one historical event and molded it to meet his needs of the day. In the case of Macbeth, Shakespeare was molding the play to meet his needs in pleasing the new King James I of England. He took what historically was a man who reined for 10 years as a benevolent monarch and turned him into a purely tyrannical leader for the benefit of the play and the theater. Showing how all traits are in all men and that one must be wary of the motives within himself before acting to know which side of the dichotomy he lies on.