Tragic Deaths in Othello and Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

There have been many great writers throughout time, but none can compare to the wise-minded and classical writer, William Shakespeare. He is highly regarded to be one of the greatest poets in history. No other writers works have been reprinted as many times as his. His plays have been made into movies, reenactments, and even songs have been produced. Shakespeare was able to produce unique and original characters and present them in his writing in his own way. His writings reveal a fundamental knowledge of literature and deep understanding of language. As a playwright, he was clearly influenced by culture and history and incorporated them into his plays. Sadly, William Shakespeare passed away at the age of tender age of 52 on the 23rd of April, 1616. Fortunately, his writings still live on. Some of his most popular writings are Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.

Furthermore, Romeo and Juliet and Othello have similar themes and characteristics considering that they are both tragedy-based plays. Major themes that are presented are tragedy, discrimination, and most importantly, love. The main characters in both plays which are Othello and Desdemona in Othello, and Romeo and Juliet truly love one another and unfortunately this is what leads them to their tragic death. Romeo and Juliet both committed suicide so that they could be together again Similarly, Othello committed suicide when he murdered his wife, Desdemona when he believed that she was having affair with his loyal lieutenant, Michael Cassio.

Moreover, William Shakespeare put together a predestined mixed-race marriage and transformed it into a heart-wrenching tragedy. In a city where there is rarely a black person in sight, it could be predetermined that there were to be conflicts that would arise. To be clear, Othello begins in the city of Venice, the play first introduces readers to the play’s antagonist, Iago. Roderigo, who is loyal and simple-minded to Iago due to the fact that he believes that Iago will help him pave his way to Desdemona’s heart. Roderigo can also be described as gullible and dim-witted, he gives Iago money to get the girl of his dreams, when in actuality, it does not benefit him at all. Iago uses Roderigo to his benefit to help him manipulate Othello which he hates with a passion. Iago’s main goal is to destroy Othello due to the fact that Othello promotes Michael Cassio instead of him. He plots to get revenge on Othello by making him believe that his lieutenant, Cassio, is having an affair with his wife, Desdemona.

Iago’s voice dominates the tone of Othello, he is also the only character that directly speaks to the audience. He constantly rants about Cassio and Othello and describes women as good-for-nothing prostitutes. In fact, Othello even starts to mimic Iago’s tone in his own fulminations and about jealousy, which shows just how persuasive and manipulative Iago is in the play. Moving on, Iago eventually convinces Othello that his wife is having an affair with Cassio by his deceptive ways. To clarify, Iago tricks Othello by making Cassio ask Desdemona to conciliate with Othello which leads Othello to believe that she is Cassio’s lover. Later on in the play, Iago gets Emilia to steal the scarf that Othello gave to Desdemona and Iago plants it on Cassio. This then convinces Othello that his wife has been having an affair with his lieutenant, Cassio. Othello then murders his wife since he believes that she has been having an affair with Michael Cassio although she was innocent the entire time.

“Call up her father, Rouse him. Make after him, poison his delight, Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen, And, though he in a fertile climate dwell, Plague him with flies. Though that his joy be joy, Yet throw such changes of vexation on ‘t As it may lose some color” (Othello, 1.1.74-80). In this quote, Iago is talking about manipulating Brabantio’s opinion of his daughter, Desdemona. He snitches on Desdemona and Othello for secretly getting married without Brabantio’s parental consent. Iago is very skillful at deceiving multiple characters throughout the play. He betrays people who put their trust in him and believe that he is loyal although he most definitely is not.

Moving on, Romeo and Juliet is a classic story about two lovers who love each other to death, literally. “Like some of Shakespeare’s other plays from this period, Romeo and Juliet makes a connection between qualities of love and qualities of imagination” (Levinson, pg. 8) The main conflict in the story is that both of their families hates each other. The families hatred towards each other conflicts with Romeo and Juliet’s romantic interests due to the fact that they cannot be open with their relationship and have to remain secretive about it. The Capulets and the Montagues are the two families that despise each other. Juliet is the daughter of the Montagues and Romeo is the son of the Capulet’s. The family feud was so bad that even the Prince had gotten involved and proclaimed that if anyone dared to disturb the peace after a fight broke out, that the penetrator shall face a death penalty.

The parents of Romeo and Juliet play a major role in their death. Due to the families hate and ancient feud, Romeo and Juliet cannot express their love publicly. ‘It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be Ere one can say it lightens. Sweet, good night! This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flow’r when we next meet.’ (Romeo and Juliet, act II, scene 2) By this quote, Juliet basically tells Romeo that they need to be cautious about their relationship due to their families. She also wants to marry Romeo although they have only known each other for a day. This passion leads Juliet into desperately drinking potion so she can avoid marrying Paris. Agreeably, these “violent delights’ do have “violent ends”.

Comparatively, both of these Shakespearean plays have tragic deaths. Several characters in Othello die throughout the play. Firstly, in act five scene two, Roderigo and Iago wait outside a brothel where Cassio tends to meet Bianca, a prostitute. Their goal is to catch Cassio unarmed and for Roderigo to potentially stab him. Cassio eventually enters and that is when Roderigo stabs him but fails at getting the rapier (a type of sword) through the armor. Cassio then successfully stabs and wounds Roderigo. Iago then stabs Cassio and fleas out of the whole commotion with Cassio left wondering who had stabbed him. Othello enters to hear Cassio’s cries of murder and believes that it was Iago that stabbed him in vengeance, inspired by this, Othello decides to go back to his bedroom to murder his wife, Desdemona.

Additionally, Othello stands over Desdemona sleeping with a candle bends down to kiss her once more before he murders her. She then wakes and Othello tells her to “prepare to die” Desdemona grows frightened by this and asks him why and he simply tells her that she has been having an affair with his lieutenant, Cassio. With no way to prove that she did not since Cassio is dead, Desdemona has no way out of proving herself innocent. Othello succeeds in smothering and suffocating her wife to her unfortunate death. The truth of Iago’s deceitful ways comes to light through Emilia’s accusations. Othello begins to weep over Desdemona’s body and mentions the handkerchief which Emilia begins to explain, but Iago interrupts trying to keep his plots hidden and murders her. In the end, Othello commits suicide due to the fact that he murdered his innocent wife.

Similarly, six people die in the play Romeo and Juliet. Romeo’s close friend Mercutio, dies in a duel between him and Tybalt, who is the main antagonist and Juliets cousin in the play. After he kills Romeo’s best friend, Romeo then stabs him mortally, this causes Romeo to be banished from Verona. In the last scene, act five scene three, Romeo kills Paris because Paris thinks that Juliet understandably kills herself because of Romeo killing her cousin. Paris tries to attack Romeo but fails when Romeo kills him first.

As Paris dies, he wishes to be laid near Juliet’s tomb, which Romeo agrees As he is carrying Paris into the tomb, he sees Juliet lying peacefully and wonders how she can looks so beautiful. He intends to spend eternity with her and drinks the poison then kisses Juliet, then dies. Juliet eventually wakes and sees Romeo’s dead body laying next to hers, she spots the empty vial of poison which she concludes that he has drank, she kisses his lips hoping to die by the poison but fails. She then takes Romeo’s dagger and proclaims, “O happy dagger, / This is thy sheath,” and stabs herself (5.3.171).

Lastly, Shakespeare has brought together two magnificent plays that are classics around the world, Othello and Romeo and Juliet have many comparable and contrasting themes. The fact that many characters die tragically in both plays, and how “violent delights” have “violent ends” (romeo and juliet, act 2, scene 6). Romeo and Juliet and Othello and Desdemona faced discrimination because of their love for each other.

For instance, in Romeo and Juliet, their family fued limited them to keeping their romance hidden and in Othello, Othello’s race causes people like Iago to be prejudice. Iago did not think that Desdemona should be engaged to him due to his skin color. Both of these Shakespearean plays are focused on the ruination of of relationships. Iago successfully destroys Othello by psychologically damaging him to commit suicide, and in Romeo and Juliet, both lovers die due to mental instability and the longing to spend eternity with each other. These two stories can be seen as life lessons or just harmless tales, but either way both stories will continue to remain classics throughout history.

Works Cited

  1. Othello: Entire Play, shakespeare.mit.edu/othello/full.html
  2. Romeo and Juliet: Entire Play, shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/full.html
  3. Levinson, Jill L. Shakespeare in Performance: Romeo and Juliet. Manchester University Press, 1987.