Thursday, 19 February 2015

Write short notes of any four tragedies of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s four tragedies have been briefly given in this essay. They are Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Othello, the Moor of Venice, ‘King Lear’ and Macbeth, William Shakespeare, the greatest of the English playwrights and poets was born in the year 1564 at Stratford upon Avon in England. At nineteen he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years his senior. Shakespeare composed his greatest tragedies such as Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet and Othello during the eight years from 1601 to 1608.

In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare describes the tragic story of the prince of Denmark whose father the King of Denmark is brutally murdered by the king’s brother and uncle of Hamlet and young Hamlet had to confront with a lot of obstacle which led to the tragedy of the unfortunate prince Hamlet.  Prince Hamlet is depressed having been summoned to Denmark urgently from his school in Germany to attend his father’s funeral, and he is shocked to find his mother Gertrude already remarried. The queen has wed Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, the dead king’s brother!  To Hamlet, the marriage is “foul incest”. Worse all, Claudius has had himself crowned King of Denmark. It is a violation of the rule of inheritance which says Prince Hamlet is his father’s heir to the throne. Hamlet suspects foul play. In the dead of night the ghost of Hamlet’s father visits the castle of Elsinore and confirms Hamlet’s suspicions. The ghost tells Hamlet that he is unable to rest in peace because he was murdered by his brother Claudius, the present king of Denmark. The ghost requests his son Hamlet to avenge his murder but to spare Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, to let Heaven decide her fate.

Hamlet pretends to be made and this madness is a kind of mask for him to observe the intrigues in the castle of Ellsinore.  In order to test the ghost’s sincerity,  Hamlet has arranged to stage a play “The Mousetrap” in which the scenes of the murder as described by the ghost of his father has been added. It is a tremendous success. The guilt of Claudius is well reflected on the king’s face. Hamlet resolves to kill his uncle Claudius. But as Hamlet observes “conscience doth make cowards of us all”.  In his reluctance, Hamlet actually causes six ancillary deaths. The first death is Polonius whom Hamlet stabs through a wall hanging as the old man spies on Hamlet and his mother Gertrude in the queen’ chamber. Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius is gone mad and drowns in the river singing sad love songs cursing the fate of a spurned lover Hamlet. Her brother Laertes falls next. In the duel, Laertes drops his poisoned sword. Hamlet retrieves the sword and cuts Laerts. The lethal poison kills Laertes. Before he dies Laerts tells Hamlet that he was also wounded by the same sword and he would also die soon. Gertrude, believing that Hamlet’s hitting Laertes means her son is winning the fencing match, has drunk a toast to her son from the poisoned cup Claudius had made for Hamlet. Thus the queen dies. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and then pours the last of the poisoned wine down the throat of the King Claudius.

The duration of the events of the play Othello is only for three days. The theme of the play is the jealousy of Othello, the moor of Venice on the chastity of Desdemona who is far younger and beautiful than the black-skinned Othello who is the military Captain of the Duke of Venice. Desdemona, the only daughter of Brabantio, a senator of Venice is in love with the middle aged Othello and eloped in the night. Iago who wants to take revenge upon Othello for promoting his junior Cassio as his lieutenant, becomes the villain of the play.Brabantio complains to the Duke of Venice, but Desdemona tells the Duke she loves Othello as her husband. Brabantio tells Othello “Look to Desdemona, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father, and may thee”. The seeds of suspicion fell on the mind of the Moor. Soon after their wedding, they go to Cyprus. The honeymoon night is disturbed by the skilful maneuvering of Iago and his assistant Roderigo, a good for nothing young Venetian who loves Desdemona and is encouraged by Iago to come to Cyprus. Iago wants money from Roderigo in return for the chance to meet Desdemona. Roderigo is a day-dreamer and a rich fool who comes to the sea-port town, Cyprus with Iago. Every time young Roderigo comes to Iago with a bag full of money and persuades Iago to give him a chance to fall in love with Desdemona. For Iago, Roderigo is a goldmine. Iago succeeds in the dismissal of Cassio by Othello and Iago steps into the shoes of Cassio. Soon Iago has achieved another score by making Othello believe that Desdemona is in love with Cassio because he is very young and handsome Venetian. Iago also makes believe Othello that Desdemona does not love the black skinned old aged Othello and he blindly believes whatever Iago said about Desdemona. On the third day of their honeymoon night, Othello smothers Desdemona to death.

Shakespeare has borrowed the story of the play King Lear from a very ancient folk-lore of the same title and improvising the theme to suit English Nationalism. King Lear decided to divide his British kingdom among his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia according to their degree of love for him. Goneril and Regan vie each other in flattering the old king and he was pleased. But Cordelia said that her love for her father was just as a child loves its father, no less no more. The furious old king divided his kingdom between the two daughters and Cordelia was reduced to a beggar. The king of France is ready to marry her and Cordelia becomes the queen of France. King Lear has decided to live with the daughters Goneril and Regan every month alternately. When he lived with Goneril for a week, the old king saw the wolfish mind of his daughters and soon he is kicked out of their homes and reduced to the level of a beggar wandering in the heath in cold night, facing violent wind, lightning and thunder. The fool alone follows him as his confident, and shadow every where.  Cordelia comes to England with a French army and in the war the king and Cordelia are taken as prisoners of war. Cordelia is killed, the king dies of broken heart. Goneril and Regan want to marry one man Edmund and Goneril poisons Regan to death. Goneril commits suicide. There is a subplot in the play King Lear. It is the story of the earl of Gloster and his two sons Edgar and the bastard son Edmond. Gloster’s two eyes are plucked out on the advice of Edmond by Cornwall, the husband of Regan and while the blind old man is walking along the way he says                               “ As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,
                                       They kill us for their sport”.  

In the play Macbeth, Shakespeare shows his skill as a great poet and philosopher. In Hamlet and Macbeth, Shakespare uses supernatural elements. In Hamlet, the ghost of the murdered king of Denmark visits his son Hamlet and reveals the secret of his death and asks him to avenge the murder. In the play Macbeth, three witches appear on the heath when Macbeth and Banquo return home after having won the battle of the day. The witches make prophecies to Macbeth that he will become the thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor and the King of Scotland. Thus the seeds of ambition have been sown in the mind of Macbeth and they began to grow in time with the help of his wife Lady Macbeth, better known as the ‘Fourth witch’. Macbeth murders Duncan the king of Scotland when he stays at the palace of Macbeth as his guest. Thus Macbeth becomes the king and Lady Macbeth the queen of Scotland. Since then Macbeth and Lady Macbeth lost peace of mind and sleep. Macbeth orders the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance, but Fleance escapes. The ghost of Banqo appears in the banquet of the King Macbeth. He goes to witches again and they assure him that until unless the Birnam wood walks to Dunsnane hills, he cannot be defeated. They also tell him that no man, who is born of woman can kill him. On this assurance Macbeth orders the family of Macduff murdered. When he finds that the witches deceived him, Macbeth is not afraid and the brave soldier fights alone to death. The somnambulism of Lady Macbeth and the appearance of ghost of Banqo and the dagger scene have made the play a sublime tragedy.


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