A Comparison Essay on Hamlet and Othello
This comparative essay examines Hamlet and Othello depicted by Shakespeare and gives strong visual examples from multiple perspectives to persuade its audience.
William Shakespeare occupies a unique position in world literature and he is often considered to be one of his most contributing writes in English literature. His way of writing not only focuses on the use of verse but prose as well. Hamlet and Othello are two of his most popular plays and are similar to each other in some aspects such as dramatizing revenge and tragedy being their central theme.
In Othello and Hamlet, many forms of moral corruption and dilemma are carried out by protagonists. Different kinds of evilness are described through interesting and creative ways. The way Shakespeare composes his characters enables the readers to view the action of the characters and see how lies and deceit lead to death and despair. The most distinguishable similarity in these two plays is that the Lago from Othello and Claudius from Hamlet, both appear to be someone else when in reality they are both threatening and deeply evil even though their methods may be different. Claudius is a jealous and confused character and it is demonstrated most of the times in the play. On the other hand, Lago is an insecure intriguer who tries to create misunderstandings between Othello and his wife an even gets pleasure with it.
In Shakespeare’s two works, Othello and Hamlet, the protagonists of each work strives to achieve a goal which serves as the focus for the plays. Both Iago of Othello and Hamlet of Hamlet with all one’s heart work throughout the plays to achieve their all-consuming goal. Iago and Hamlet’s motivations help shape the play as a whole and, by the final curtain, their driven search for their goal causes changes in both characters.
Hamlet’s central motivation stems from his desire to take revenge on Claudius. Hamlet’s need for revenge inspires him to create an antic disposition or feigned madness in order to gain information about his uncle. The need to keep up his antic disposition serves as a key motivator for Hamlet’s actions. While interacting with Ophelia, Hamlet borders on appearing bipolar. He goes from shouting at her: “To a nunnery, go, and quickly too, Farewell” (Act 3 Scene 1); to asking: “Lady, shall I lie in your lap” (Act 3 Scene 2)? This unpredictable swing in Hamlet’s attitude towards Ophelia results from the antic disposition he tries to command. Hamlet’s disposition, motivated by his need for revenge, changes the way he interacts with everyone he comes in contact with. This appears especially evident in his interactions with Polonius when he accuses him of being a fishmonger from the very beginning. The conversation changes topics quickly and without notice. It ranges from Hamlet saying: “Conception is a blessing, but, as your daughter may conceive – Friend, look to’t” (Hamlet Act 2-3), to critiquing his book: “Oh, just lies, sir. The sly writer says here that old men have gray beards” (Act 2 Scene 2). This informal and random conversation timely demonstrates how highly motivated Hamlet works to achieve his goal for revenge.
In Othello, Shakespeare imagistic blank verse is used for the major characters and prose for the lower class. For the notorious, he uses a mixture of both which implies Lago’s flexibility in masking his true colours and intentions from whomever he is speaking to. Shakespeare also stresses he volte-face in situations as he play grows by the change of the language tone he uses.
In the beginning, Othello’s language is consistent as Lago was a confident and nobleman who was immensely in love with his wife, Desdemona. Later on, as the play progresses Othello’s language changes as he is manipulated by Lago to believe his wife was an infidel. This causes Lago to become extremely jealous and Othello’s language thereon becomes barbaric. The changing of Lago’s behaviour towards his wife can be seen in both “Her honor is an essence that’s not seen; they have it very oft that have it not” (Act 4, scene 1), and “Her eye must be fed” (Act 2 Scene 1)… as womanhood and sexuality being brought down.
Othello is essentially an ironic play considering the major distinction that exists in what appears to be real to the characters in the play and what appears to be real to the theatre audience. Shakespeare uses several devices to do this; above all, he gave Lago the best language in the playwright’s whole body of work. Therefore, Lago easily disguises his true intentions and appears to be an appealing and trustworthy person.
In Hamlet, again through the use of language, Hamlet’s conflict of identity management is portrayed. His sides can be seen in both ways: His insane behaviour towards his family and the other side is his variance between deciding to do right or wrong based on what he has seen and heard. He uses poetic diction using powerful phrases. Figurative language, imagery, and irony are used to create suspense all through the play.
Like Othello, in Hamlet also Shakespeare shows disputes between characters, treachery, and misjudgement. He stresses how characters appear to be one person while inside they are another. In the first act of the play, an internal conflict is demonstrated with Hamlet’s effusiveness to Horatio and Marcellus that he will be acting mad, as a front.
How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall—. (Act 1 Scene 5 Line 171-175)
This scene comes at the end of Hamlet’s first meeting with his father’s ghost; he is swearing his friend Horatio and the officer Marcellus to secrecy about plans he hasn’t really explained.
Shakespeare lets his audience become aware of Hamlet’s choice of disguising as a madman, in the first act of the play. He writes in a way through which the audience knows what is going on while the characters are still unaware of it yet when the shreds of evidences are obvious. Another way through which the elements of deceit and irony are on the forefront is when Claudius mourns the death of King Hamlet and claims to be very depressed about it while in reality, he was the one who murdered him. Later on, Hamlet tries to avenge his father’s death many times but moral dilemma causes him to fail.
Another similarity between the writing styles for the two plays is the role of the protagonists: Othello and Prince Hamlet. Both the characters are superior en possessing great courage. But as the play progresses, Othello is consumed by jealousy while Hamlet by revenge. The difference between them is that Hamlet spends a lot of time thinking things over and over again with analysing the situation; while Othello is irrational and acts without thinking. Just like Hamlet, Othello is based upon the intensities that drive the main character over the edge of insanity.
The pattern of moving from sanity to psychosis also parallels the decay of both the plays. Opehlia is introduced to the audience as a worthy lady who is normal for the Elizabethan era. Desdemona is also introduced in this light, alongside her noble husband Othello. As the play moves from harmony to chaos, the sanity of both Opehlia and Othello diminishes. As both plays move closer toward complete discord, the minds of Othello and Ophelia grow madder and madder. The final outcome, is of course, the deaths of the innocent ladies, and for the plays the final outcome is utter destruction and misery of Denmark and Venice. The role of the innocent lady provides a symbol of sanity in addition to being a symbol for happiness and harmony. As the role fades away in both plays, the sanity and harmony parallels the pattern and also fades.
William Shakespeare is arguably one the greatest play writers of all time. Shakespeare’s plays have endured critics from all ages and have been dissected and analyzed, by many, in an attempt to understand the depth and complexity of the characters he has created. However, two of Shakespeare’s characters, Hamlet and Othello, share an unfortunate demise. These tragic heroes allow themselves to become enveloped in their quest for revenge until they are ultimately consumed by this idea of revenge, therefore leading them to their downfall.
A Comparison Essay on Hamlet and Othello This comparative essay examines Hamlet and Othello depicted by Shakespeare and gives strong visual examples from multiple perspectives to persuade its audience
A Comparison Essay on Hamlet and Othello