A Analysis of Four Characters of Shakespere
William Shakespere had a unique gift for finding what his audience liked then sticking with it. He wrote to entertain and knew what people wanted. In his work you can find repetion in the actions, stories, and characters that he created. Four main characters in Othello, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and MacBeth are all distinctly different and also so much alike. You will be able to see these contrasts threw a brief discription of each character.
In Shakespeare’s tragedy/history/Roman play Antony and Cleopatra, we are told the story of two passionate and power-hungry lovers. In the first two Acts of the play we are introduced to some of the problems and dilemmas facing the couple (such as the fact that they are entwined in an adulterous relationship, and that both of them are forced to show their devotion to Caesar). Along with being introduced to Antony and Cleopatra’s strange love affair, we are introduced to some interesting secondary characters. One of these characters is Enobarbus. Enobarbus is a high-ranking soldier in Antony’s army who it seems is very close to his commander. We know this by the way Enobarbus is permitted to speak freely (at least in private) with Antony, and often is used as a person to whom Antony confides in. We see Antony confiding in Enobarbus in Act
I, Scene ii, as Antony explains how Cleopatra is “cunning past man’s thought” (I.ii.146). In reply to this Enobarbus speaks very freely of his view of Cleopatra, even if what he says is very positive: …her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love. We cannot call her winds and waters sighs and tears; they are greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report. This cannot be cunning in her; if it be she makes a shower of rain as well as Jove. (I, ii, 147-152) After Antony reveals that he has just heard news of his wife’s death, we are once again offered an example of Enobarbus’ freedom to speak his mind, in that he tells Antony to “give the gods a thankful sacrifice” (I.ii.162), essentially saying that Fulvia’s death is a good thing. Obviously, someone would never say something like this unless they were in very close company. While acting as a friend and promoter of Antony, Enobarbus lets the audience in on some of the myth and legend surrounding Cleopatra. Probably his biggest role in the play is to exaggerate Anthony and Cleopatra’s relationship. Which he does so well in the following statements: When she first met Mark Antony, she pursed up his heart, upon the river of Cydnus. (II.ii.188-189) The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver, (II.ii.193-197) And, for his ordinary, pays his heart For what his eyes eat only. (II.ii.227-228) Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety…. (II.ii.237-238) In these passages, Enobarbus turns Antony’s and Cleopatra’s meeting into a fairy tale and leads the audience into believing the two are inseparable. His speeches in Act II are absolutely vital to the play in that this is what Shakespeare wants the audience to view Antony and Cleopatra. Also, in these passages, Cleopatra is described as irresistible and beautiful beyond belief – another view that is necessary for us to believe in order to buy the fact that a man with so much to lose would be willing to risk it all in order to win her love. Quite possibly, these passages may hint that Enobarbus is himself in love with Cleopatra. After all, it would be hard to come up with such flowery language if a person were not inspired. Enobarbus may be lamenting his own passions vicariously through the eyes of Antony. This would be convenient in questioning Enobarbus’ loyalty, which becomes very important later on in the play (considering he kills himself over grief from fearing he betrayed his leader). The loyalty of Enobarbus is indeed questionable. Even though we never hear him utter a single disparaging remark against Antony, he does admit to Menas that he “will praise any man that will praise me” (II.iii.88), suggesting that his honor and loyalty may just be simple brown-nosing. Shakespeare probably fashioned Enobarbus as a means of relaying information to the audience that would otherwise be difficult or awkward to bring forth from other characters (such as Cleopatra’s beauty and the story of her betrayal of Caesar), but he also uses him as way to inject some levity and humor in the play, showing the characters eagerness to have a good time. Evidence of this comes in Enobarbus’ affinity for drunkenness. In both Act I and Act II Enobarbus purports the joys of drink: Bring in the banquet quickly: wine enough Cleopatra’s health to drink. (I.ii.13-24) Mine, and most of our fortunes, tonight, shall be — drunk to bed. (I.ii.47-48) He even caps off Act II with a song for Bacchus and a request for drunken celebration. In short, Enobarbus is used as any good secondary character should be; he relays information between characters, exposes other characters and their traits, gives background information, and lets the audience in on his surroundings and the general moods and beliefs of the times he lived in. He is not just used as a database however, through his speeches and his actions we find a fully developed person, someone with thoughts, motives, and feelings all his own — a character who can’t be summed up in just a few sentences.
In the play Othello, the character of Othello has certain traits which make him seem naive and unsophisticated compared to many other people. This is why Iago, to get his just rewards uses him as a scapegoat. Iago told Roderigo, ” O,sir, content you. I follow him Othello to serve my turn upon him “(I, i lines 38-9). Iago is saying, he only follows Othello to a point, and upon reaching it he will not follow him any longer. Iago has opened my eyes to see the real meaning of deceit. No matter what, Iago will try to take advantage of Othello any time and he will be easily lead to believe the lies of Iago.
The Moor, as many Venetians call him, is of strong character. He is very proud and in control of every move throughout the play. The control is not only of power but of
the sense of his being who he is, a great warrior. In Act I, Othello has a scuffle with
Brabantio, who has come to kill him, but before anything could happen Othello said, “Hold your hands, both of you of my inclining and the rest. Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter” (I, ii, lines 80-3). The power shown here is quite astounding.
The nature of Othello’s character is of a dark man. A dark man, not only because he is black, but also because his whole person is very mysterious. He is mysterious in
that he believes there is magic brewing everywhere. With this dark side he is also
very outgoing, and not very bright. He isn’t observant and the schemes of Iago work
well on him. Though he doesn’t reflect too much on his past, except occasional
ventures of wars fought, he does let his emotions run his life. For all the dangers and encounters he has been involved in, this man is still naive of the corruptness of other individuals. Othello has a trusting nature in which he gives it all. He put all his trust in Iago during times of war and during Othello’s marriage to Desdemona. This wasn’t very bright of Othello, even if he wasn’t trusting or more corrupt he still wouldn’t realize Iago was lying. Everyone considered Iago as honest, and would be out of character for Othello to believe any different. For example, Othello had told the Duke, “So please your grace, my ancient; A man he is of honesty and trust. To his conveyance I assign my wife, With what else needful your good grace shall think, To be sent after me” (I, iii, lines 284-8).
The control over any situation is one Othello’s strong characteristics. Through the whole first act you can picture a man so much power and natural leadership and when he changes you cannot believe it. For example, when Lodovico had witnessed
Othello hit Desdemona, he said: “Is this the noble Moor whom our full Senate Call all in all sufficient? Is this the nature Whom passion could not shake? whose solid virtue The shot of accident nor dart of chance could neither graze nor pierce” (IV, i, lines 264-8)? While Iago, being the honest man he is, answers: “He’s that he is, I may not breathe my censure. What he might be (if, what he might, he is not) I would to heaven he were” (IV, i, lines 270-2).
Another place where Shakespeare shows Othello taking control over a situation is
when Cassio and Montano are fighting after Roderigo antagonized him. These
words Othello said are important now, but they will be more important later when
he is alone with Desdemona in their bedroom. He will say: “Now, by heaven, My blood begins my safer guides to rule, And passion, having my best judgement collied, Assays to lead the way. If I once stir Or do but lift this arm, the best of you Shall sink in my rebuke” (II, iii, lines 203-8). You must feel sorrow for Othello because with all the power he has and the endless trust he gives, you try to reach out and show him the truth. By having his ancient or friend, Honest Iago bring him the news of his wife’s bad habits. Othello had no alternative but to believe him. If any man was brought news of this type they would surely go off the deep end. Iago not only told him but he told him in a way that it was hard not to believe. He didn’t tell a couple who have been married for years, and who would know the likes and dislikes of one another, but he told a newly wed couple. Othello didn’t really know Desdemona before they were married. Othello said, “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them”(I,iii, lines 166-7). This man had really fallen in love with someone whose life was boring and needed adventure.
Othello’s origin also inhibited him from understanding European women. He did see for himself the deception of Desdemona toward her father and remembered the words he had said to him: “Look to her, Moor, if thou has eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee” (I, iii, lines 286-7).
When Othello has been given information from Iago in Act III scene iii, he cannot take any more so he asks Iago to leave in which he does. Upon returning, Iago continues to enforce his previous statements and Othello seems not bothered for he replies, “Fear not my government” (III, iii, 256). With all this there is no man who can withstand such news like the news that Iago has given to Othello. Most of the men who are would do much worse than in the case of Othello. This doesn’t show jealousy, but when he is alone and has time to contemplate the situation and has seen the handkerchief in the hands of Cassio, now is when his blood begins his safer guides to rule.
After realizing Othello had been tricked into believing the lies of Iago. He couldn’t handle the anguish of knowing he had murder in jealousy rather for justice. This
devastation in Othello’s character brought the strong warrior back into the scene.
Where he transformed into his own judge, jury, and sentenced himself. He told the
people around him in their letters to write of him not in malice, then he said: “Then you must speak of one that loved not wisely but too well” (V, ii, line 344). After the speech was done he carried out his sentence, took a knife and stabbed himself. He then said:
“I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss” (V, ii, line 359-60). He then laid down on the bed and died with dignity ( Stauffer 173).
Othello was jealous. He was told his wife was cheating on him and he thought he was killing for justice. He even said he loved not wisely but too well. When he did kill it was not very smart of him to believe another man about something he should know more about. This play introduced changes in Othello’s character when these changes evolved there was Iago lurking and waiting for the chance to jump in and take advantage of Othello. This why my belief of Othello is one of a man whose character is brought to light of a horrible situation by a deceitful devil named Iago.
Macbeth is presented as a mature man of definitely established character, successful in certain fields of activity and enjoying an enviable reputation. We must not conclude, there, that all his volitions and actions are predictable; Macbeth’s character, like any other man’s at a given moment, is what is being made out of potentialities
plus environment, and no one, not even Macbeth himself, can know all his inordinate self-love whose actions are discovered to be-and no doubt have been for a long time determined mainly by an inordinate desire for some temporal or mutable good.
Macbeth is actuated in his conduct mainly by an inordinate desire for worldly honors; his delight lies primarily in buying golden opinions from all sorts of people. But we must not, therefore, deny him an entirely human complexity of motives. For example, his fighting in Duncan’s service is magnificent and courageous, and his evident joy in it is traceable in art to the natural pleasure which accompanies the explosive expenditure of prodigious physical energy and the euphoria which follows. He also rejoices no doubt in the success which crowns his efforts in battle – and so on. He may even conceived of the proper motive which should energize back of his great deed: The service and the loyalty I owe,In doing it, pays itself. But while he destroys the king’s enemies, such motives work but dimly at best and are obscured in his consciousness by more vigorous urges. In the main, as we have said, his nature violently demands rewards: he fights valiantly in order that he may be reported in such terms a “valour’s minion” and “Bellona’s bridegroom”‘ he values success because it brings spectacular fame and new titles and royal favor heaped upon him in public. Now so long as these mutable goods are at all commensurate with his inordinate desires – and such is the case, up until he covets the kingship – Macbeth remains an honorable gentleman. He is not a criminal; he has no criminal tendencies. But once permit his self-love to demand a satisfaction which cannot be honorably attained, and he is likely to grasp any dishonorable means to that end which may be safely employed. In other words, Macbeth has much of natural good in him unimpaired; environment has conspired with his nature to make him upright in all his dealings with those about him. But moral goodness in him is undeveloped and indeed still rudimentary, for his voluntary acts are scarcely brought into harmony with ultimate end.
As he returns from victorious battle, puffed up with self-love which demands ever-increasing recognition of his greatness, the demonic forces of evil-symbolized by the Weird Sisters-suggest to his inordinate imagination the splendid prospect of attaining now the greatest mutable good he has ever desired. These demons in the guise of witches cannot read his inmost thoughts, but from observation of facial expression and other bodily manifestations they surmise with comparative accuracy what passions drive him and what dark desires await their fostering. Realizing that he wishes the kingdom, they prophesy that he shall be king. They cannot thus compel his will to evil; but they do arouse his passions and stir up a vehement and inordinate apprehension of the imagination, which so perverts the judgment of reason that it leads his will toward choosing means to the desired temporal good. Indeed his imagination and passions are so vivid under this evil impulse from without that “nothing is but what is not”; and his reason is so impeded that he judges, “Thesesolicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good.” Still, he is
provided with so much natural good that he is able to control
the apprehensions of his inordinate imagination and decides
to take no step involving crime. His autonomous decision not
to commit murder, however, is not in any sense based upon
moral grounds. No doubt he normally shrinks from the
unnaturalness of regicide; but he so far ignores ultimate
ends that, if he could perform the deed and escape its
consequences here upon this bank and shoal of time, he’ld
jump the life to come. Without denying him still a complexity
of motives – as kinsman and subject he may possibly
experience some slight shade of unmixed loyalty to the King
under his roof-we may even say that the consequences which he
fears are not at all inward and spiritual, It is to be
doubted whether he has ever so far considered the possible
effects of crime and evil upon the human soul-his later
discovery of horrible ravages produced by evil in his own
spirit constitutes part of the tragedy. Hi is mainly
concerned, as we might expect, with consequences involving
the loss of mutable goods which he already possesses and
After the murder of Duncan, the natural good in him
compels the acknowledgment that, in committing the unnatural
act, he has filed his mind and has given his eternal jewel,
the soul, into the possession of those demonic forces which
are the enemy of mankind. He recognizes that the acts of
conscience which torture him are really expressions of that
outraged natural law, which inevitably reduced him as
individual to the essentially human. This is the inescapable
bond that keeps him pale, and this is the law of his own
natural from whose exactions of devastating penalties he
And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
He conceives that quick escape from the accusations of
conscience may possibly be effected by utter extirpation of
the precepts of natural law deposited in his nature. And he
imagines that the execution of more bloody deeds will serve
his purpose. Accordingly, then, in the interest of personal
safety and in order to destroy the essential humanity in
himself, he instigates the murder of Banquo.
But he gains no satisfying peace because hes conscience
still obliges him to recognize the negative quality of evil
and the barren results of wicked action. The individual who
once prized mutable goods in the form of respect and
admiration from those about him, now discovers that even such
evanescent satisfactions are denied him:
And that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.
But the man is conscious of a profound abstraction of
something far more precious that temporal goods. His being
has shrunk to such little measure that he has lost his former
sensitiveness to good and evil; he has supped so full with
horrors and the disposition of evil is so fixed in him that
nothing can start him. His conscience is numbed so that he
escapes the domination of fears, and such a consummation may
indeed be called a sort of peace. But it is not entirely what
expected or desires. Back of his tragic volitions is the
ineradicable urge toward that supreme contentment which
accompanies and rewards fully actuated being; the peace which
he attains is psychologically a callousness to pain and
spiritually a partial insensibility to the evidences of
diminished being. His peace is the doubtful calm of utter
This spectacle of spiritual deterioration carried to the
point of imminent dissolution arouses in us, however, a
curious feeling of exaltation. For even after the external
and internal forces of evil have done their worst, Macbeth
remains essentially human and his conscience continues to
witness the diminution of his being. That is to say, there is
still left necessarily some natural good in him; sin cannot
completely deprive him of his rational nature, which is the
root of his inescapable inclination to virtue. We do not need
Hecate to tell us that he is but a wayward son, spiteful and
wrathful, who, as other do, loves for his own ends. This is
apparent throughout the drama; he never sins because, like
the Weird Sisters, he loves evil for its own sake; and
whatever he does is inevitably in pursuance of some apparent
good, even though that apparent good is only temporal of
nothing more that escape from a present evil. At the end, in
spite of shattered nerves and extreme distraction of mind,
the individual passes out still adhering admirably to his
code of personal courage, and the man’s conscience still
clearly admonishes that he has done evil.
Moreover, he never quite loses completely the liberty of
free choice, which is the supreme bonum naturae of mankind.
But since a wholly free act is one in accordance with reason,
in proportion as his reason is more and more blinded by
inordinate apprehension of the imagination and passions of
the sensitive appetite, his volitions become less and less
free. And this accounts for our feeling, toward the end of
the drama, that his actions are almost entirely determined
and that some fatality is compelling him to his doom. This
compulsion is in no sense from without-though theologians may
at will interpret it so-as if some god, like Zeus in Greek
tragedy, were dealing out punishment for the breaking of
divine law. It is generated rather from within, and it is not
merely a psychological phenomenon. Precepts of the natural
law-imprints of the eternal law- deposited in his nature have
been violated, irrational acts have established habits
tending to further irrationality, and one of the penalties
exacted is dire impairment of the liberty of free choice.
Thus the Fate which broods over Macbeth may be identified
with that disposition inherent in created things, in this
case the fundamental motive principle of human action, by
which providence knits all things in their proper order.
Macbeth cannot escape entirely from his proper order; he must
inevitably remain essentially human.
The substance of Macbeth’s personality is that out of
which tragic heroes are fashioned; it is endowed by the
dramatist with an astonishing abundance and variety of
potentialities. And it is upon the development of these
potentialities that the artist lavishes the full energies of
his creative powers. Under the influence of swiftly altering
environment which continually furnishes or elicts new
experiences and under the impact of passions constantly
shifting and mounting in intensity, the dramatic individual
grows, expands, developes to the point where, at the end of
the drama, he looms upon the mind as a titanic personality
infinitely richer that at the beginning. This dramatic
personality in its manifold stages of actuation in as
artistic creation. In essence Macbeth, like all other men, is
inevitably bound to his humanity; the reason of order, as we
have seen, determines his inescapable relationship to the
natural and eternal law, compels inclination toward his
proper act and end but provides him with a will capable of
free choice, and obliges his discernment of good and evil.