Comparing Othello and Macbeth

To confront self-doubt and racism in this Venetian society, Othello buries himself to more military assignments and battles. Faced with these two challenges, Othello does the only thing that gives him respect and worth in Venice- being a warrior. Being an excellent soldier puts him in high demand by the senate and the Duke. Hence, Othello’s motivation to serve Venice as a soldier is to gain acceptance as one of its own.

Sadly, this society persistently refuses to see him as one of its own, and he dies as an outsider. The fact that he does not take some time to spend with a new wife and goes off to war in Cyprus immediately after marrying Desdemona is proof that the general is a workhorse. In his dying speech in Act V scene II, he reminds the Venetians of the service he has done to their state (101). Unfortunately, the distraction and dedication into heroic battles cannot adequately cover up his internalized racism and self-doubt ultimately.

On his part, Macbeth is a capable and brave warrior. However, he suffers from unchecked ambition and the fact that he is easy to influence and manipulate. While Macbeth initially comes across as a man full of courage, the predication that he is destined to be a king someday ushers in a period of inner turmoil that is brought about by ambition that cannot be checked. In other words, while Macbeth is physically strong and brave, he lacks the strength of character that Banquo possesses.

Macbeth’s greatest weakness is his inability to check his ambitions because the three witches do not change him but rather awaken something that has been in him all along. His actual downfall is his unchecked ambition. Together with Lady Macbeth, he fails to realize how his ambition makes him easily cross moral lines leading him to a murderous path (Shakespeare Macbeth 8). For example, had he taken time to consider that after killing King Duncan, he would need to keep murdering more people who are a threat to his ambition to hold on to his title as the king. (Shakespeare, Macbeth)

Macbeth’s other challenge is his inability to prevent himself from being influenced or manipulated. While it is clear that he is a tyrant, he is initially fearful and almost aborts his first murder crime. Had he not been with his wife, there is a possibility that he would not have begun his murderous path to the top. It takes his wife to instill in him a steely sense of purpose and pushes him over the edge (Brown 75). The fact that sometimes he feels guilty of his deeds is proof that he is not happy as a murderer.

Hence, Macbeth’s one major obstacle is failing to realize the extent of his ambitions, and this is contrasted with Banquo, who also hears about the predictions of the witches but is not willing to pursue his dreams at whatever cost. To confront his ambitions, Macbeth goes on a murderous path without remorse, unlike Othello. Besides, while Othello contemplates suicide and executes himself, Macbeth never contemplates ending his life as he asks, “why should I play the Roman fool?” (Act V Scene VI pg 98).