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Othello & Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Haunt Me Still put me in the mood to interact with the Bard, so I checked out both Othello and Macbeth from the Topeka public library. The former was checked out mostly because batteredhaggis told me to, and the latter because Macbeth is featured heavily in Carrell's book, but they had themes in common (such as manipulative people who destroy other peoples' happiness and, eventually, their own. An accidental little connection, I promise, but one that kind of worked out anyway.

I'm not going to bother writing long reviews of these, given that they are Shakespearean plays, but suffice to say I enjoyed both of them quite a bit!

Othello tells the story of Iago, a manipulator of the highest degree who endeavors to convince Othello, a Moor who is a high-ranking officer in the army, that his new wife Desdemona is cheating on him. Using everyone he comes in contact with, including men who are ostensibly his friends and his wife, "honest Iago" manufactures events and coincidences that convince Othello his wife has slept with one of his most trusted soldiers, and then tries to arrange that every one of the people he used ends up dead. Everyone who trusts him as an honest, good man -- the whole cast -- is deceived until his endgame goes awry. He never explains fully his motivations -- did he hate Othello? Did he love Desdemona? Did he have a problem with their interracial marriage? Was he defending a friend? -- and ends the play taking a vow to never explain them. HE is, without a doubt, one of the more complicated villains in literature, two-faced enough that I in part finished the play wondering what exactly compelled him to do what he did, and ruin the lives around him so blithely and completely.

On the subject of villains, Macbeth's Lady Macbeth is far more manipulative and black-hearted reading her as an adult than when I read Macbeth when I was in the fifth grade. When Macbeth, a Scottish thane, is told by three witches that he will someday be King of Scotland, his wife is the one who comes up with the plan to kill the current king, and to frame his guards, and is the one who sets him down the path to ruin. She constantly snaps him back on his path to ruling even when he wavers, and says that she would have done the killing herself if he didn't look so much like her father. But the problem with her actions is that they drive her mad, much like the prophecy Macbeth hears from the witches -- that he will be king, but king without heirs to follow him -- becomes self-fulfilling. Ruining Duncan ruins Macbeth, who is killed and beheaded months after taking the throne. I ended up wondering if maybe the ultimate manipulators were the witches, who set the entire series of events in motion.

I am not generally a big fan of Shakespeare's tragedies -- I've always preferred the comedies -- but more than Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, these two are solid plays I deeply enjoyed, even if they were, essentially, about the badguys.


the forest-dweller

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