Hamlet vs Othello

Topics: Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Othello Pages: 5 (1916 words) Published: May 25, 2011
How the protagonists deal with their difficulties: Hamlet vs Othello In William Shakespeare Hamlet and Othello, the author creates two similar yet vastly different protagonists. The major source of contrast lies within each characters approach to decision making and premeditated action. As David Nichol Smith puts it, Hamlet “is not a character marked by strength of will or even passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment.”(Smith 288) This very refinement of thought is what characterizes both Hamlet’s indecision and forces him to act when he renounces indecision. In contrast Everything about Othello’s mind, on the contrary, is direct, healthy, objective; with an openness and docility of childhood he loses himself in external things; his thoughts are occupied with objects, not with themselves and he reproduces in smooth transparent diction the truth as revealed to him from without; his mind, in short is like a clear even mirror which, invisible itself renders back in its exact shape and colour whatever stands before it; so that we get from him not so much his impressions of things as the things themselves that impress him. (Hudson 316-317) This child-like and gullible thought process unveils to us the true nature of Othello, the expert at war but the novice at life, who like a mirror believes and acts on the will and impressions of others rather than contemplate both the true reality of things and the people who speak against them. These distinctions allow the reader to see that “in Hamlet grace and reason are jangles. In Othello the mildness that complements a soldier’s courage is baffled.”(Howarth 14) Here is the essence in the difference between Hamlet and Othello. Hamlet makes his decision through prolonged self reflection that continues to the point where action is never done in an expedient faction, while Othello makes his decision through the ideas given to him by others which leads to rash, emotionally charged action. These differences in decision making can be seen through the different difficulties that each protagonist faces with their lovers, friends, and antagonist.

In both literary works, the protagonist falls in love with the daughters of two politicians. Both fathers have the power to influence the fate of the main characters. Unfortunately, the fathers are very protective of their daughters and also have a formal relationship with the protagonist which causes them to interfere with the young lovers. Upon finding out about his daughter’s relationship with Hamlet, Polonius informs King Claudius in hopes of creating a better position in the court. Hamlet discovers Polonius’ plot to use their relationship as a means to obtain a higher position with the King, thus suspects Ophelia of being untrue in her love and devotion for him therefore ending said relationship. Without knowing so, Polonius has interfered in their relationship. In Othello’s case, Barbantio interferes by warning Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness by foreshadowing, “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee.” (Shakespeare 50) Like Polonius, Barbantio has also indirectly interfered with the new lover’s relationship serving as reinforcement to Iago’s later deception. In contrast, the protagonists deal with the fathers in different ways. Hamlet sees Polonius as a selfish and ignoramus, Othello, to a certain extent, respects Barbantio because of his seniority and service to the state. When dealing with Polonius, Hamlet drives a rapier through a curtain and kills the old statesman without remorse. This is one instance when we see Hamlet act uncharacteristically by using force rather than rational thought. In contrast we see Othello have the same change from normal action as he uses calm reason and his words to deal with Barbantio and not his usual rash, emotional, and physical action that characterizes him later in the piece. So in this case we see both protagonists acting...

Cited: Barthelemy, Anthony Gerard. Critical Essays on Shakespeare 's Othello. New York: G.K. Hall, 1994. Print.
Howarth, Herbert. The Tiger 's Heart; Eight Essays on Shakespeare. New York: Oxford UP, 1970. Print.
Hudson, Henry N. Lectures on Shakespeare. Vol. 2. New York: Baker and Scribner, 1848. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Norman Sanders. Othello. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Norman Sanders. Hamlet. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge UP, 1984. Print.
Smith, David Nichol. Shakespeare Criticism: a Selection. [Whitefish, Mont.?]: Kessinger Pub., 2007. Print.
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