Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet
Comparison and Contrast
By Ankur Chauhan
Comparisons between plays can always be made; the question is, how useful are they? The core comparison that springs to mind between these two plays, Othello and Hamlet, is that these are both tragedies driven by character. That is to say, they all follow classically great men from great heights to terrible ends and deaths. Each man is in a situation where he is especially vulnerable. If these men swapped places, they might not have fallen so easily. As they fall, others fall with them, including those they love. When the great fail, entire sections of society fail.
William Shakespeare, in the play Hamlet, goes deep into the psychological afflictions of a man whose mother marries his uncle, who has murdered his father. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears before Hamlet to tell him who his murderer is, and to make certain that Hamlet will avenge his death. However, Hamlet does not immediately seek revenge. His reason for his delay in seeking revenge is that he is waiting for an opportune moment to strike. However, Hamlet's stalling to seek revenge drives him almost insane. It should be pondered upon; what is the actual reason for Hamlet's delay in punishing his uncle. His tendency to reflect detains his ability to act, he does not come out of his thinking rather goes deeper into it and this is proven to be true by the action in the play. Hamlet spends almost all of his time thinking. A great deal of his narrative, sounds, more like speeches, as if he is speaking to himself, or his own mind. Many of these speeches are soliloquies, however, even when he is speaking to someone else, it sounds as if he is reflecting upon matters in his own mind.
As the play progresses, the reader or viewer of the play is begging Hamlet to kill his uncle already, to just stop thinking about it and just do it, but he does not. Every minute detail is continued to be analyzed by him, to the point of a nervous breakdown. He is seen to be contemplating whether he should obey the ghost of his father, his thoughts, and his imagination, which seem so clear and evident to him, or the real world. Hamlet, thus, is the classical Romantic figure. He strives to solve the problems of man by using his mind. It could be argued that all he is trying to do is to rationalize his circumstances but more than just a rational being, he is imaginative and allows the things that he conjures in his mind to influence his thinking. Hamlet turns to his inner self and the supernatural, rather than turning to God, to try to solve his dilemma.
As the play moves on, Hamlet's inability to act and his vivid imagination drive him more insane. He begins to lose his rationale, and starts to move further away from reality. He woos and leads Ophelia to believe he will take her as his wife, but then tells her he feels he is not worthy. Hamlet, of course, has done no wrong; other than woo Ophelia, but this is not the reason for which he is judging himself. Hamlet is judging himself for his inability to act. His thoughts consume too much of his time for him to act upon his ambitions, or “to give them shape.” He is a prisoner of his own mind, a man stuck in the imaginary world, an irrational thinker, in a rational society. The most famous speech in Hamlet is the ultimate speech of indecision and mental contemplation -
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms and arrows against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die to--sleep--
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is air to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die--to sleep.
To sleep--perchance to dream, ay there's the rub!” (Hamlet, Act II Scene I)
Hamlet and Othello bare many similarities in their characterizations. Othello suffers from similar...
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