Hamlet vs. Othello

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A Potent Flavor of Tragedy

In this essay I have looked at the contrast between Hamlet and Iago in their potency of completing actions and their use of power through speaking with others. I intend to show at the end how either extreme leads to their downfall, and in this way they can compare to each other through what happens to them in the end. I had some difficulty figuring out how to tie in implications throughout the essay and I did not know exactly what it meant to tie in an implication in an English essay, versus an implication that would be discussed in TOK. My writing process started out very well, I came up with a thesis, searched for quotes that would support it well, and then created my outline and rough draft. However, after the rough draft, which was very rough, I procrastinated on the editing process. I should have began editing immediately after the essay workshop instead of waiting. I know I need improvement of my writing style and my implications, and these are the areas in which I would like the most feedback.

February 9, 2011

A Potent Flavor of Tragedy

In two of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, Hamlet and Othello, potency and impotency are addressed through characters actions and schemes. To be potent is to wield power, to be mighty, influential, persuasive, and cogent. One in a high position, one whom many looked up to, would likely hold characteristics of potency. Contrastingly an impotent character would be one of a lower position, and accordingly one of lesser position and influence. The first of these plays, Hamlet, speaks of a young man, Hamlet, seeking revenge on his uncle for the murder of his father and the taking of his father’s throne and wife. The second play, Othello, demonstrates Iago, the antagonist, to be in want of Othello or Cassio’s higher position and his determination to obtain these through murder, deception, or any other vile mechanism. Young Hamlet from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Iago from Othello provide blatant contrast in the potency of their actions throughout the course of each play. Hamlet portrays an impotent character through his lack of communication and actions, and Iago portrays a potent character through his deceptive communication and decisive action. However, they demonstrate regardless of one’s influence or ability to wield power, similar motives will draw parallel conclusions.

Throughout the course of the play Hamlet, the audience watches young Hamlet develop from a character that has no effect on the rest of his household to one who drastically changes its make up. In the beginning, he is compared to a dying king of another kingdom, one “who [is] impotent and bed-rid” by his uncle Claudius, and is seen to have little effect on anyone around him. (I.ii.29) The speaker draws this comparison to place emphasis on the weak nature of Hamlet. Within the first acts, his character is not revealed through his communication with others, but through his asides and soliloquies. Upon an encounter with the ghost of his late father and the introduction to his mission to kill Claudius for revenge; Hamlet speaks in a soliloquy full of puzzlement over his subsequent actions. He decides that “break, [his] heart, for [he] must hold [his] tongue”, and thus not to speak with anyone regarding the matter, but search out the correct actions for himself (I.ii.159). Hamlet in this way designates his revenge to be interpersonal and impotent for the time as he determines his course of action, instead of taking action and speaking with others immediately. As he struggles within himself over the actions he will take, questions arise through witnessing more emotion portrayed in a play that happens on the King’s Court than he feels within him. Hamlet asks in an aside, “had [the player] the motive and cue for passion/That I have?” (II.ii.564-565). Despite Hamlet’s definite purpose for revenge, he struggles with his inability to take action and admonishes himself for being unable to...
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