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Philosophy of Literature: Shakespearean Tragedy Essay

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Updated: Nov 12th, 2021


Most people will agree that there is no better way to express emotions than through poems and plays. In fact, the best ridicules, satires and ironies are expressed through writing that does not attack their victims directly.

The finest humour is also expressed through writing and this explains why most comic movies must be scripted before being staged (Feagin 102). Othello is a true reflection of the above accounts on how tragic incidences make heroes to be villains as discussed in this essay.

Epistemological Dimensions

McGinn is persuaded that all plays written by Shakespeare have tragedies punctuated by death (McGinn 188). This becomes a resemblance factor in almost all Shakespeare’s plays. For instance, Macbeth and Othello have many occasions where death occurs either as planned or due to natural interventions. The above plays are named after the protagonists in them and coincidentally they both meet tragic ends.

Othello dies unexpectedly when he thinks he is almost conquering his emotions while Macbeth dies as soon as he ascends to the throne of power. In addition, almost all members of their families die shortly after or before the protagonist dies.

These expressions enable readers to realise that all human beings are mortal despite their wealth, fame or power (McGinn 188). Ironically, these deaths are caused by the victims since they contribute knowingly or unknowingly to its occurrence.

McGinn claims that the protagonists have a weak character that makes their life miserable at the end of the story. Othello is depicted as a racial and envious person despite his commitment and hard work. These weaknesses are to blame for the misfortunes that befall him later in the play. Therefore, a mismatch arises here when he tries to be modest yet his emotions betray him.

At last he is not able to hide it and decides to kill his girlfriend. These situations make it easy to predict the outcome of events; for instance, Othello’s envy makes the audience to expect him to do something bad to any person who tries to snatch his lover.

These plays influenced by human desires to do what their minds tell them rather than what is good for their societies. There is no doubt that the lead character is out to accumulate as much wealth, fame and power as possible to protect his interests.

Othello, just like Macbeth, is a selfish character who wishes to be the only one recognised by the society. People have always excelled in various activities but due to selfish interests their fame and wealth have drastically dwindled (McGinn 92). It is evident that self interest overrides all other moral personalities in individuals.

Even though, human beings know what they are supposed to do they seldom consider this option when confronted with various challenges in life. In Othello, the commander appoints incompetent people to head various sections like when Cassio is appointed to the litigant’s position (Hume 48). Despite his young age the commander considers this young man suitable for this job.

Even though, there is no direct relationship between these two it is evident that the young man is inexperienced and unprepared to manage this office. Moreover, the lead character in this play has defied all odds and created his conveniences despite moral and religious regulations. He defies traditions and marries a young lady despite pressure from the girl’s father that the two should never get married.

Today, people, especially youths, think that they know more than their parents and do what they please rather than what should be done. Finally, they fail to complete their studies, contract diseases and start engaging in drug abuse.

They lead miserable lives due to their unplanned actions during their teenage years. This is always a path of destruction that invites young men and women without warning them about the consequences of their actions.

Betrayal is a common occurrence in normal lives and this play offers an excellent description of this case. Lago wants to make the Duke to pay for his negligence and persuades Roderigo to inform Brabantio that his daughter is married to the commander knowing very well the father never recognised their relationship (Hume 48).

This is an illustration of how people get involved in things that are not of importance to them. In addition, it is also an indication of the facts that human beings are always nosy and ready to participate in other people’s issues.

It should be understood that Othello is a good commandant and his ready to go to war to defend his people just like Macbeth. However, he is an opportunist who takes advantage of all circumstances to benefit him without considering what others will experience (Feagin 77).

There is a close similarity between Othello and Macbeth since they are destroyed by their selfish ambitions and blind courage. A king does not ease himself in the bush since he will be exposing his nakedness to the whole world. This saying is respected by neither Othello nor Macbeth and this leads to their failures.

Moreover, people always pretend to be good despite the truth that they know each other and understand their weaknesses. In most cases, main characters are usually brought down by the same people they have trusted many years. Othello thinks Desdemona is unfaithful since she is social and outgoing.

This becomes a burning issue whenever they confront each other and she is finally killed on claims that she is unfaithful. In both Macbeth and Othello suicide is inevitable since the main characters are confronted with tough situations.

Othello feels guilty for killing his girlfriend and later feels remorseful about his actions (Feagin 76). However, it is necessary to note that this action is motivated by selfish interests that override reasoning. His attempts to kill Lago become futile when the later overpowers him and instead kills his friend’s wife.

Craig argues that there are some metaphysical forces that cannot be overcome by human beings in trying to make life better (Craig 51). His illustration of the forces that drive Macbeth to desire to see his husband is strongly motivated by selfish interest rather than emotions. In Othello, similar illustrations occur when Othello is ordered to go to the sea to fight the invaders.

This was going to be one of his toughest assignments had it not been for the Duke commanding that he goes with Desdemona (Craig 57). The pair is lucky that the invaders changed their minds or were defeated by other people. They take this opportunity to bond oblivious of the danger facing them; however, selfish interests drive the pair to destruction at the end of the play.

In addition, Craig claims that fear and hope play significant role sin determining an individual’s behaviour. Macbeth was a good soldier but as soon as the witches told him of the expected response after winning the battle his reasoning came to a stand still.

He started dreaming that one day he would be the king of Scotland and had the high hopes that he would attain this status (Craig 64). After confiding this information to his wife he was advised to kill his perceived competitors to eliminate opposition.

This was the beginning of hopes covered with fear and resulted in various misfortunes. In fact, his hopes and fears are to blame for exposing his weaknesses and leading to tragic deaths in the play.

Works Cited

Craig, L. H. Of Philosophers and Kings. Political Philosophy in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear. London: University of Toronto Press, 2001. Print.

Feagin, Susan. “The Pleasure of Tragedy.” American Philosophical Quarterly 20 Apr. 1983: 95-104. Print.

Hume, David. 1742. “Of Tragedy” in Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987. Print.

McGinn, Collin: Shakespeare’s Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning behind the Plays. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. Print.

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