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“”The tragedies of both Macbeth and Othello present two worlds of
reality. One world being that as we the audience sees it, in the normal
state of the present. The other being a world of the mind the reality of
evil and witchcraft created by the contemplation of Macbeth and Othello.

The actuality of this world is most questionable and dangerous for the
characters because of the confusions it brings about. Macbeth and Othello
do become the victims of their own minds. This is supported through the
poetry of the plays. Where what is seen appears to be different from what
is and the numerous references make it difficult to distinguish one thing
from the other. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”. (1.1.10 Macbeth) “So foul
and fair a day I have not seen.” (1.3.38 Macbeth) The poetry calls our
attention to the similarities of the opposites of good and evil, real and

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“That look not like the’ inhabitants o’ the’ earth” (1.3.41), we are
told by Banquo of the weird sisters. Banquo is the very opposite of Macbeth
and represents the real world as we know it plainly. Banquo gives
forewarning to Macbeth by suggesting that they are “The instruments of
darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betrays In deepest
consequence”. Macbeth may have gone away from the encounter unharmed had
not one of the predictions been already fulfilled. So the evil seed has
been put into the mind, such is the case for Othello. Brabanio accuses
Othello of being a “foul thief”, a practitioner of “foul charms/ an abuser
of the world”. (1.2) After having to defend himself to Brabanio and the
court, Brabanio leaves Othello with a seed for thought, “if thou hast eyes
to see: She has deceived her father and may thee.” (1.3)
The soliloquy of Macbeth (1.3) makes it clear the state of his mind
that he has been caught by the “honest trifle”, and is now going forward to
the affair of “deepest consequence”. His speech begins with what seems to
be good but which is really evil. So throughout the lines the mind is faced
by a situation that “cannot be ill; cannot be good”. (1.3) In the confusion
of his mind these “fantastical” images lose their identity and he knows
that his imagination has altered the world of reality and upset the course
of nature. The difficulty of distinguishing between the two opposites and
that the good is being choked and the bad is coming forward are expressed
in Macbeths words “smothered in surmise, and nothing is but what is not.”
(1.3.140) Othello in some regard is also aware of his weakness and states
his frame of mind. “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul but I do love
thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.” (3.3.90 Othello)
The true suffering comes to Othello and Macbeth when they are torn
between the two worlds, not fully accepting either one. They both struggle
with nature and what is seen and unseen, the contrast between light and
darkness, good and evil, black and white. An essential premise of tragedy
is that the crimes have consequences, even if the character knows what he
has done or not. Macbeth knows what crime he is to commit before he ever
does. The agitation of his mind and the poetry in the lines indicates the
recognition of the deed he contemplates.

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly. If
the assassination / could trammel up the consequence, and catch / With his
surcease success; that but his blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all
here, / But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, / We’d jump the life to
come. But in these cases / We still have judgment here, that we but teach /
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plaque the’ inventor.

(1.7 5-8)
Macbeth is doomed and time as well as nature is now his enemy. “Away, and
mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart
doth know.” (1.7 81)
As for Othello, he is tormented by what he is hearing about his wife and
even though he may know it not to be true he can’t help his thoughts. “As
thou ruminate, and give thy worst thoughts / The worst of words.” (3.3 132)
He decides then what he must do. “I am abused, and my relief / Must be to
loath her… ‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death.” “Arise, black
vengeance, from the hollow hell!”(3.3)
After Macbeth kills Duncan and after Othello witnesses Cassio’s
“smiles, gestures and light behaviors” (4.1), contemplation has become
obsession. Macbeth has entered into the world of the mind and left the real
one behind. “Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse” (2.1) “Macbeth
does murder sleep” (2.2) Colors and hallucinations followed by darkness
form the landscape of Macbeths world. “His silver skin laced with his
golden blood / Steeped in the colors of their trade” (2.3) “Light thickens”
(3.3) Othello is now obsessed with the killing of his wife. “For she shall
not live. No my heart is turned to stone” (4.1) “I will chop her into
messes!” (4.1) Othello’s mind has transformed Desdemona into a villain and
he will be the hero. “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul. / Yet she
must die, else she’ll betray more men. Put out the light, and then put out
the light.” (5.2)
Macbeth and Othello are victims of their own minds. Due to the
contemplation which in turn became obsession. Macbeth entered into the
world of his mind so fully he considers himself but a shadow. “Life’s but a
walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the
stage and then is heard no more.” (5.5) “I’gin to be aweary of the sun, /
And wish the’ estate o’ th’ world were now undone.” (5.6) It is right with
nature that Macduff beheads Macbeth. “Th’e usurper’s cursed head. The time
is free.” Othello’s strong conviction cannot free his mind. He is trapped
even as Desdemona explains, “That death’s unnatural that kills for loving.”
(5.2) “A guiltless death I die.” (5.2) After Othello kills his wife and
learns of his mistake, his world is gone and he gives himself up to evil.

“But O vain boast! / Who can control his fate? ‘Tis not so now. / Be not
afraid, though you do see me weaponed. / Her is my journey’s end, here is
my butt, / And very seamark of my utmost sail. / Do you go back dismayed?
‘Tis a lost fear. Man but a rush against Othello’s breast, / And he
retires. Where should Othello go? Now, how dost thou look now?… / Whip me
ye devils, / From the possession of this heavenly sight! Blow me about in
winds! roast me in sulfur! / Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire! /
O Desdemona! dead Desdemona; dead. O! O!” (5.2)
Othello kills himself. “I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (5.2)
The imagination can conceive a world of evil. To enter into the mind
and dwell there, was the downfall of both Macbeth and Othello. The subtle
changes and inability to distinguish black from white, light from dark,
love from war are the fruits of too much contemplation, thus become the
victims of one’s own mind.


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