Difficulties in Shakespeare’s Othello and The Winter’s Tale

Literature / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
Looks at the difficulties of each play, specifically the heroines Desdemona and Hermione, and the problems that critics had with them.

“Though the above words were written in the opening decades of the 19th century, many present day readers find themselves agreeing with those “some critics”; while they cannot deny that Shakespeare’s works are brilliant, they are by no means perfect or flawless. In Othello, the `beautiful flowers` that the aforementioned passage mentions might include the dramatic intensity of the play, or the rendering of Iago’s character, but for present day readers a “weed” almost invariably sprouts up when the depiction of Desdemona is considered. How could a woman who knew she was completely blameless submit so easily to her death at Othello’s hands? In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale the `flowers` of the text might be the power of the final scene, or in the way the pastoral imagery in the fourth act is written. But once again a `weed` may grow for the reader who focuses on the tone of the play. Are the first three acts a tragedy or a comedy, and how does Hermione’s death work to make the play seem like one or the other? Since both Desdemona and Hermione face essentially the same situation, the wrath of their irrationally jealous husbands, it is interesting to consider what would happen if their places were switched — if Desdemona were a character in The Winter’s Tale, and Hermione a character in Othello. By closely examining the problems presented by both Desdemona and Hermione and their effect on their respective plays, and then by conducting the thought experiment in which the two women are exchanged, it can be clearly seen that, while the inconsistencies are not `fixed,` the character switch does bring a certain kind of unity to each play. ”

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