Flaws are naturally a part of a human being; flaws in personality are common in literature to make a character seem more realistic. Shakespeare evidently attempts to reach out to people in order to receive more publicity in his plays, instances of the seven deadly sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony) play a massive role in the downfalls of these characters. In this essay, I will be comparing the works of William Shakespeare (playwright) and other poets including Robert Browning in order to compare Othello to the poetic tragedies of which contain characters of similar qualities.
Poor judgement is used in the play of Othello; the ‘Moor’ is easily manipulated by his Iago because he trusts them too much, even to the point of questioning his own decisions. The problem here (according to the audience) is that he trusts the wrong people, this doesn’t play on any of the seven deadly sins as such, but it clearly lays out the plotline of the play. Othello is a man who has many flaws that are shared by the audience in the Jacobean era, men were obviously not perfect and the objectification of women was common. Being published in 1622, this play shows the restriction and patent suppression of women of the patriarchal society in Jacobean England. In act 2, Othello says ‘Come, my dear love, the purchase made, the fruits are to ensue’, this relates to their perspective of marriage, being a pact sealed by the purchase of the bride. A senator from act 1 scene 3 says that Othello should ‘use Desdemona well’, hinting that she requires the orders of her superior in order to operate, the word ‘use’ meaning to ‘control’ or to ‘manipulate’. This further proves that men viewed women as objects to be possessed by their husbands, and thus strengthens the flaws created from his insecurity to control his lover.
Porphyria’s Lover, published in 1836, contains a lot of flaws by both the man and the woman, also inspired by the intensely religious and patriarchal society of England. This poem is in the poetic rhyme scheme of a Cinquain (A,B,A,B,B), this allows the poem to flow easily so that the reader can allow themselves to become enticed by the story, this is because it imitates that of a calm heartbeat.
This dramatic monologue further includes evidence of the objectification of women in the Victorian era, the Lover who commentates this monologue kills Porphyria because he feels insecure and wants to preserve her innocence, proved with the line ‘perfectly pure and good’, ‘pure’ representing her virginity of which he wishes to preserve. There is also the likelihood that he murders her in punishment for suggesting sexual intercourse before marriage. This was also written in the Romantic era of 1800-1850. The beginning of the poem has certain romantic aspects, the image of Porphyria ‘gliding’ into the house after ‘she shut the cold out and the storm’ is possibly metaphorical, the contrast of the words ‘Storm’ and ‘Warm’ though syllabic are considered completely opposite. This is done to compare the struggle that the woman endured to reach the warm cottage as opposed to the man’s default comfort in his home.
The flaws in this dramatic monologue come from the Lover, being strongly religious to the point where he murders Porphyria on grounds that he chooses God over his own conscience. This is purely from the author’s intentions that stem from his anti-religious beliefs, his sceptical views that often lead his poems to tragedy through actions influenced by Christianity. ‘And yet God has not said a word!’ is an example of Robert Browning’s scepticism, it is either because the speaker believes that he has not committed a sin, being that there was no consequence or because there is no God (promotion of Atheism) to object to his actions. ‘And all night long we have not stirred’ is describing the following night after the murder, Porphyria is dead which is why she does not move but the supposed lover is asleep beside her, thinking that he has committed a justified and correct deed by killing her, shown by ‘The smiling rosy little head, So glad it has its utmost will’, the man thinking that he has made her happy because he can be with him forever. This links to Othello because both lovers from the two stories have killed their romantic partners as a result of uncertainty and poor judgement, both being evident flaws that are shared by many people at that time.
In the play Othello, Iago says to him ‘O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on’ (Act 3, scene 3), this is his advice to the ‘Moor’ to steer away from jealousy by giving it a form through the use of personification, the meat being a product of figurative language meaning the consciousness of a person in which is fed on by the green eyed monster (jealousy), meaning that jealousy causes one to misjudge and to make poorly made decisions. The word jealousy is given the form of a green-eyed monster because the thought of it is repulsive and generally something to avoid, by giving the word a form Iago has successfully negotiated with Othello and irritated him, proven by his reply of ‘O misery!’ Iago is using Othello’s personality flaw of uncertainty in order to get his way.
The laboratory, written by Robert Browning, was also published during the romantic era of 1800-1850. In this case, the dramatic monologue is spoken by a woman as opposed to the men who so commonly shared flaws in their judgement and actions. This dramatic monologue is clear and understandable because she is talking to the apothecary as he prepares a poison, the clarity of this one-sided conversation is what allows me to analyse her intentions as she progresses through her story. The poem goes in the rhythmic pattern of A, A, B, B, what this pattern gives to the dramatic monologue is an energetic and enthusiastic edge which is also represented in the woman’s speech. ‘What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me– That’s why she ensnared him: this never will free’, in this line she comes up with reasons as to why her partner has been unfaithful to her, the word ‘minion’ in these two lines derives from the French word for small, or little, which she uses to compare herself to one of the women which she saw as rivals. The flaw of uncertainty plays a part in this because she doesn’t know completely why she has been cheated on. ‘You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!’ is a line spoken from the speaker to the apothecary allowing him to kiss her; this is evidence of her excitement after seeing ‘the delicate droplet, my whole fortune’s fee—’ the delicate droplet being a globule of the poison which was made for her malicious cause. The excitement of which follows these moments results in her offering of a kiss on the lips from the ‘old man’, this is an instance where she acts with hypocrisy because she is punishing her partner for his infidelity and decides to kiss the man who conducted illegal acts for her, a flaw that is not in fact shared with the stories Othello and Porphyria’s lover.
Similar to Porphyria’s lover is the Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, this was yet another poem written by Robert Browning, published in 1842. Brother Lawrence, the object of the speaker’s derision, starts the poem by saying ‘Gr-r-r—there go, my heart’s abhorrence!’ as if he is condemning someone, he then goes on to say ‘In god’s blood’, speaking god’s name in vain to portray his hatred for Brother Lawrence, this suggests that the speaker is not a very good christian for a supposed monk. When Brother Lawrence gives the men melons, the speaker says ‘Oh, those melons! if he’s able We’re to have a feast; so nice!’ (lines 41-42) the semi colon represents a short pause, meaning that he has intended to be sarcastic after mentioning Brother Lawrence’s good will. The speaker shows two forms of flaw, hypocrisy and hatred. The hypocrisy comes from the fact that he imagines that Brother Lawrence lusts over a couple of nuns from a convent who wash their hair near to him. The speaker then decides to read his ‘scrofulous French novel’, scrofulous meaning morally degenerate or corrupt; which is a sin in itself. The hatred comes from the speaker’s will to ruin Brother Lawrence’s spiritual life even though he has lived with him for many years. ‘If I trip him just a-dying’ this means that the speaker wants to cause Brother Lawrence to commit a sin just before he dies in order to take him to hell without him being able o ask for forgiveness. This poem is a very good example of Robert Browning’s skepticism on the subject of religion and Christianity, explained earlier in the essay.
Another flaw which is portrayed in Othello is Iago’s dismissal of his wife in Act 3 Scene 3, Emilia gives Desdemona’s handkerchief to Iago without any knowledge of his intentions and attempts to ask him why he wanted it ‘What will you do with ’t, that you have been so earnest To have me filch it?’. Because he knows that Emilia is good and will not betray her friend he replies with continuously dodging her questions by forcing her to leave ‘Be not acknown on ’t, I have use for it. Go, leave me.’ Basically saying that he needs it and that what he will do with the handkerchief is not of her business. This scene is a good example of Iago’s self-proclaimed superiority over his wife which is a flaw in itself.
Flaws have been used in all of the texts I have analysed, this is quite expected since there are flaws in every person. Flaws in personality as well as being linked to sins are what would make a tragedy interesting because of its contribution in a downfall or action of poor judgement. These flaws in question are shared between all the characters in this essay, this is because adding flaws to a person is crucial for character development, both Heroes and Villains become anti-heroes which gives a lot more to a story, because we as human beings can relate to them a lot easier. W. Shakespeare’s authorial intentions come from the fact that he was clearly a populist because he created stories in which could be related to by his massive audience of a wide range of social classes, not with monetary intention, but because of his love of literature.