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The tragedies of both Macbeth and Othello present two worlds of reality. One world being that as we the audience sees it, in the normal state of the present. The other being a world of the mind the reality of evil and witchcraft created by the contemplation of Macbeth and Othello. The actuality of this world is most questionable and dangerous for the characters because of the confusions it brings about. Macbeth and Othello do become the victims of their own minds. This is supported through the poetry of the plays. Where what is seen appears to be different from what is and the numerous references make it difficult to distinguish one thing from the other. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. (1.1.10 Macbeth) “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” (1.3.38 Macbeth) The poetry calls our attention to the similarities of the opposites of good and evil, real and surreal.
“That look not like the’ inhabitants o’ the’ earth” (1.3.41), we are told by Banquo of the weird sisters. Banquo is the very opposite of Macbeth and represents the real world as we know it plainly. Banquo gives forewarning to Macbeth by suggesting that they are “The instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betrays In deepest consequence”. Macbeth may have gone away from the encounter unharmed had not one of the predictions been already fulfilled. So the evil seed has been put into the mind, such is the case for Othello. Brabanio accuses Othello of being a ”foul thief”, a practitioner of “foul charms/ an abuser of the world”. (1.2) After having to defend himself to Brabanio and the court, Brabanio leaves Othello with a seed for thought, “if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father and may thee.” (1.3)
The soliloquy of Macbeth (1.3) makes it clear the state of his mind that he has been caught by the “honest trifle”, and is now going forward to the affair of “deepest consequence”. His speech begins with what seems to be good but which is really evil. So throughout the lines the mind is faced by a situation that ”cannot be ill; cannot be good”. (1.3) In the confusion of his mind these “fantastical” images lose their identity and he knows that his imagination has altered the world of reality and upset the course of nature. The difficulty of distinguishing between the two opposites and that the good is being choked and the bad is coming forward are expressed in Macbeths words “smothered in surmise, and nothing is but what is not.” (1.3.140) Othello in some regard is also aware of his weakness and states his frame of mind. “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.” (3.3.90 Othello)
The true suffering comes to Othello and Macbeth when they are torn between the two worlds, not fully accepting either one. They both struggle with nature and what is seen and unseen, the contrast between light and darkness, good and evil, black and white. An essential premise of tragedy is that the crimes have consequences, even if the character knows what he has done or not. Macbeth knows what crime he is to commit before he ever does. The agitation of his mind and the poetry in the lines indicates the recognition of the deed he contemplates.
If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well / It were done quickly. If the assassination / could trammel up the consequence, and catch / With his surcease success; that but his blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all here, / But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, / We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases / We still have judgment here, that we but teach / Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plaque the’ inventor. (1.7 5-8)
Macbeth is doomed and time as well as nature is now his enemy. “Away, and mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” (1.7 81)
As for Othello, he is tormented by what he is hearing about his wife and even though he may know
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William Shakespeare, Fiction, Characters in Macbeth, English-language films, Literature, British films, Shakespearean tragedies, Othello, Macbeth, Banquo, Three Witches, Macduff
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