Don’t ask me why, but I was thinking about Othello a minute ago, specifically the “It is the cause, my soul, let me not name it to you” scene. It clicked with me just how scary that really is, if you consider Shakespeare’s characters as real people who could really be walking the Earth next to you.
So I thought I’d ask : Which of the tragic heroes, if you knew them in real life, would be the scariest?
Lear’s got a temper on him and he goes a little crazy, but it’s more the forces around him that cause the damage, not him.
Macbeth? Sure he’s a bit of a mass murderer, but I’m left thinking that everybody who gets it in that play is really in his way in one form or another (even if hypothetically, like Banquo, or collaterally, like Macduff’s family). Who knows, maybe it’s the bloody nature of that one that makes it hard to even imagine in real life.
Hamlet’s a bit scary when you think about it. Not for butchering Claudius, that was straight up revenge. Or for how he ran through Polonius, which was a bit impulsive. I’m talking about sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths, a purely calculated move. Did he have to do that? Couldn’t he have written “throw them in jail” instead of “execute them”, or something similar?
Now compare Othello and Desdemona. He’s not even really that bad of a guy, is he? Does he run around the play killing anybody? Desdemona is a complete innocent. Othello gets just completely brainwashed, not into a rash and impulsive act, but into something so calm and collected that he pretty much explains to his wife what he’s going to do before he does it.
That, I think, is what worries me most of all. That there are personalities like that who can be manipulated to any degree, even to the killing of innocent loved ones. It’s not that Othello was crazy like Lear (and arguably Hamlet), or that he was already a little bloodthirsty like Mr. “unseamed him from nave to chaps” Macbeth over there. PTSD much?
Othello was a regular guy who was manipulated into doing a pretty bad thing. Which means you could quite possibly say the same about anybody around you.