Responsibility for Tragedy in Othello and Macbeth

The tragedy in both Othello and Macbeth is found not so much in the scattering of bodies covering the stage at the end of each play, but instead in the degeneration of the plays' respective protagonists. Men championed by Shakespeare at the beginning of the plays as "valiant" (I.iii.48, Othello) and "noble" (I.ii.67, Macbeth) emerge by the end as "the blacker devil" (V.ii.130, Othello) and a "tyrant" (V.viii.27, Macbeth). Shakespeare tracks the deterioration of these characters by presenting us with a number of different causes for the actions that eventually bring about the protagonists' downfalls. Although both Othello and Macbeth have innate negative qualities that indubitably contribute to the erosion of their stability and moral character, these traits do not appear to be fully expressed before a number of malignant forces act upon the characters. These traits appear in the forms of other characters, and are the consequence of fatal misunderstandings and coincidences that arise out of deceptive appearances. However, Shakespeare was in control of his texts at all times, and to suggest that the vicissitudes in these plays are mere coincidences denies this control. Indeed, the...

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