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Essay on Othello and Macbeth

31 Jul 2017

“Othello” and “Macbeth” have been two of the most important tragedies of Shakespeare. The two plays are however very different in their treatments. While “Macbeth” deals with the state affairs and works with the different intertwining possibilities of human vices affecting lives and nations, “Othello” takes place at a more private world.

The influence of the vices from the tragedy in “Othello” takes place and spread across the private world only. “Othello” also considers some interplay of Baroque and religious mentalities where as in “Macbeth” we find such crossovers and contests among Christian and pagan mentalities.

There is an inordinate influence of the presence of the supernatural in “Macbeth” taking it into higher cosmic levels and overall humanitarian and existential questions regarding fate and human affairs along with the power to control them. In case of “Othello” the tragedy is much more concentrated in the private broodings of the human mind. Though the miasma of the human exchanges and interplay become a part of the greater issues addressed through the tragedy, this baroque influenced play sticks to the courtly features of an essentially baroque style play. Shakespeare had consciously put an attempt to work with the European themes of the English theatre along with the baroque needs to bring the restrictions of the themes to work in favor of a tragedy. This is something that is not the usual theme present in “Macbeth”.

The religious dimensions of “Othello” are poignantly strong while those in “Macbeth” are more of a contrasting experience with Christian and pagan principles and even posing the dualities within their natures.

New Historicism critic, Stephen Greenblatt, has been considering the several symbolic questions and social practices that have been raised in most of Shakespeare’s plays. “Othello”, “Hamlet”, “King Lear” and even some comedies like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Merchant of Venice” have mockingly raised those issues within their structures. “Macbeth” is bleaker and does not directly correlate with being spot on with social questions.

“Othello” does raise several issues and this helps to build a link with the stage and the real concerns of the society during that period. For this “Othello” becomes a play that is closer home and easier to relate in terms of the questions it raises and during its placement in time. These are some of the more important factors that close the gap between reality and the spirit of the play. For “Macbeth” the tragic plot is much more intense bringing a universal dimension to the problem. However the traps of emotional confusion and the crossroads of decision making in terms of conflict are present in the characters of the Othello as well as Macbeth.

Though Macbeth has been presented as the one who goes down the path of doom that dually ends all his options and freedom of will, Othello receives greater power to exercise his freedom at the initial stage. Though the misjudgments and false assumptions made by his character does not allow it to prevail longer either.

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