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Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American DreamCon Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies$
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Paul A. Cantor

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177304

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177304.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

The Macbeth of Meth

The Macbeth of Meth

Breaking bad and the Tragedy of Walter White

Chapter:
(p.88) 4 The Macbeth of Meth
Source:
Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream
Author(s):

Paul A. Cantor

Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
DOI:10.5810/kentucky/9780813177304.003.0005

This chapter analyzes Walter White, the protagonist of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, as a tragic hero by developing a systematic comparison of the television series with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Many regard White as a villain because of all the murders he commits, but Macbeth commits just as many, and yet Shakespeare presents him as a hero, albeit a tragic hero. For Shakespeare the fundamental tragic fact is that all forms of human excellence are not compatible, and a man who is admirable in some respects may yet perform terrible deeds in extreme circumstances. Treating Walter White as a tragic hero is the key to understanding the divided response the character elicited from television audiences. Beginning with the tamest version of the American dream—a middle-class home in the suburbs—Breaking Bad veers off in a more exciting and disturbing direction, as Walter White goes on a bizarre and perverse journey of self-realization and self-fulfillment that goes tragically awry.

Keywords:   Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, Walter White, Shakespeare, Macbeth, Tragic hero

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