Shakespeare and Steinbeck

Compare how Shakespeare and Steinbeck present villains and victims in ‘Othello’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’. By Bushes Begum Both ‘Othello’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’ are tragedies about society villains and victims and how their pursuit of love, hopes and dreams leads them to death and destruction. William Shakespearean ‘Othello’ (1603) is based on a Greek tragedy; the setting is in Venice and then Cyprus, which reflects Othello transforming into a powerful and dominant hero to a ‘Monstrous’ devil.
Briefly, the narrative is about a white woman (Desman) falling in love with a ‘Moorish’ Muslim soldier (Othello). Inter-racial relationships were seen as vile and shocking and the fact that a Senator’s daughter had fallen in love with a ‘black ram’ (as he is referred to in the play) was an even bigger issue as she not only had transgressed the social taboo, but had betrayed her fathers trust and respect.
However, John Steinbeck ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a novella that is based on the American Dream. It was published in 1937, while it was the Great Depression in the U. S. A. The novella shows us how life was around the sass’s and how people were affected, such as racism, violence, sexism; women did not have the same equality as men. Moreover, as the unemployment rate was high, people did not have the money to provide for themselves and their family. Firstly, both texts bring male villains to life.

In Act one, Shakespeare presents Ago as an antagonist even before Othello appears on stage; The scene begins with Ago fuming as he did not get the position he wanted or thought he had ‘deserved’ because Othello (being the General) had appointed Michael Cassia for this role – Cassia is one of Othello trusted soldiers and had been chosen due to his intelligence; the reason Ago is a villain is because he had planned o cause chaos Between Othello relationship with his beloved Desman by making him believe that Cassia was having an affair with her- this was in fact false.
Ago had thought of this particular revenge on Othello due to his jealousy and new that he was not chosen as Cassia’s new position as Othello lieutenant. Sago’s bitterness can be seen through this. He openly admits he is deceptive and selfish saying “In following him follow but myself’. As well as this, Ago repeatedly uses the plural ‘l’ – this flaunts his self- obsession once again and his egomania. Furthermore, Ago states “l am not what I am,” it is reminiscent of a quotation room the Bible which Shakespeare would have known: In Exodus (New Testament) Moses asks God his name.
God replies: “l am that am”. Therefore, Sago’s self-description is the direct opposite of God, which is the Devil. There is also an inconsistency between how he appears and what he is really like. This introduces Sago’s mysterious nature and his unwillingness to share his true thoughts. The readers are the only spectators that understand Sago’s true feelings. Each character believes that he is a trustworthy and noble man, but they are unaware of his thoughts and schemes.
He claims a fake putative for honesty and plain speaking, yet he invents elaborate lies to exploit each character -The fact that he started and ended the first scene demonstrates his high authority and implying he is omnipotent. Moreover, Ago uses vocabulary to manipulate Abrogation. His slyness is another concept of his wicked characteristics; he uses bestial, sexual language to exaggerate the sinfulness of his daughters marriage . The sense of uncertainty is emphasized as the action takes place at night.
The darkness links to a metaphorical difficulty in seeing – this becomes a theme in the play s the characters struggle to separate appearances from reality. Repetition is one of the skills he uses to get them thinking negatively, for example by repeating “thieves” four times he encourages Abrogation to feel that Othello has stolen his daughter. He also announces ‘Even now, an old black ram is topping your white ewe’, by using this sort of annalistic and graphic imagery, he is trying to arouse Abrogation anger at Othello, so that Abrogation destroys Othello quicker.
This is an advantage to Ago as he can seek revenge on someone he hates indirectly and in such a clever way that it doesn’t even me like he was involved in the action at all. Shakespeare specifically chose the animal, ‘ram’ to reveal the moor and connote that he is demonic and devilish; and a ‘ewe’ to suggest she is pure. Being a lamb can also emphasis that Desman is still her fathers baby, which will make Abrogation feel fellow and pity. Ago uses the present tense ‘Even now, very now’ to inflame Abrogation’s patience so he takes action as soon as possible.
Additionally, Ago cleverly included his skin color “black” to provoke Abrogation as this will array the contrast in color between Othello ND Desman; During the Jacobean times, inter-racial relationships would be considered as scandalous and for a Senator’s daughter to take such a shocking action, meant that he would lose his reputation Through Sago’s soliloquy the dramatist anticipates his increasingly evil plans: in this scene (act 1, scene 3) Ago suggests various motives for his plotting. The dramatic device of the soliloquy gives us, the speakers perspective and makes us, in part, his accomplices.
He suggests that he is envious of Cassia and states “if this poor trash of Venice, whom I leash for his haunting… ‘al have our Michael Cassia on the hip”. Ago uses a series of haunting metaphors. “Trash” was a verb meaning ‘to restrain hounds’ while hunting and a “leash” is used to restrain dogs. Also “on the hip” was a wrestling term. This shows Sago’s language is aggressive and predatory and can suggest that jealousy can lead to aggression/violence. Ago also suspects that Othello has slept with Emilie: “twixt my sheets/he has done my office”.
He seems to plot for his own amusement and calls it “sport”. However, he admits that he has no evidence “l know fit be true”, yet he acts in mere suspicion. Sago’s unsubstantiated claims suggest that sexual jealousy is just an excuse to cause anxiety between Othello and Desman. This demonstrates Ago is skilled at thinking on his feet, by showing that Ago is working out his devious plan while he speaks he uses phrases like “let me see now’ and “how? How? Let’s see”. This hints his ability to take advantage of situations and improvise.
The play”right uses rhetorical questions to make it effective. Driven by Sago’s overpowering lust for evil, the lack of his intelligence and the ability to trick people is another thrust for his manipulation. Shakespeare resents Ago as a persuasive figure; as he has the talent to make other characters blind over his trust. This means he is able to utilize people to for his own agenda and use it as a tool for his aspirations. Roding was one of the easy target for Ago to take advantage of, by convincing him that his money (along with Sago’s love) can buy Desman, a woman who cannot be bought.
In Sago’s soliloquy he declares: “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse”. The ensign shows that he is adept at using Roding’s foolishness and weaknesses to fraud money and jewels, making himself a substantial profit, while using IM to attain his other goals too. This shows the society during the Jacobean times was really easy to fool and would trust anyone. Besides, Ago shows his immoral manner through his misogyny – a general hatred of women. He suggests that most women are adulteresses- he says that there’s “many a beast then in a populous city” since so many women make their husbands cuckolds.
He also uses misogynistic terms such as “wanton” and ‘TOUT” to describe faithful Desman. Generally, in the 1 ass’s, manipulating a woman would be really easy, as it was their duty to obey the commands instructed by their men. Therefore Ago is also capable of taking advantage of his own wife (Amelia), through her weakness. He does not give or show love to her in any way. This leaves Amelia desperate for his affection. He uses her as part of his mischievous plot to destroy Othello and orders her to betray Desman and steal her handkerchief. I nothing but to please his fantasy” Emilie doesn’t question Ago about the handkerchief and does what she has been told. Even though she’s trying to please him, he shows her little appreciation and snatches the handkerchief, telling Emilie “leave me”. This splays his vice personality. Additionally, the society during the Elizabethan time was patriarchal. Men was seen as powerful and masculine to do as such; sexism was a common issue meaning women had no rights or a chance to speak up on what they believed was right or wrong. The Jacobean audience would not see sexism as a scandal, as they believe it is culture.
However, this could link to Roman Catholics not allowing women to speak in churches. On the other hand modern (21st Century) audiences would see this as discrimination and the gender should not stop you from speaking and giving your populous. Forbore, Sago’s main plot was to utilize Othello and his faithful relationship with Desman. It was easy for Ago to manipulate the ‘Moor, as he knew his fear, such as being cuckolded and this would make him fragile. During these times a man who is being cheated on was outrageous and appalling.
They would automatically lose their reputation and status; Even now in the 21 SST century people believe adultery is sickening. Ago uses relentless persuasive techniques to make Othello believe Desman is disloyal without any concrete proof. He uses leading questions such as “Did Michael Cassia…. Know your love? To imply that Othello should be suspicious of Cassia and Desman. By involving Othello in his ‘thought process’, Ago makes it seem as if the idea of Adhesion’s infidelity has come from Othello himself. This indicates Sago’s cunning characteristics.
The words ‘honest’ and ‘honesty’ are used twenty times in this scene alone proves that it is a major theme in this scene. A key reason for Sago’s success in manipulating Othello is that he is perceived as a man of ‘exceeding honesty’. It is ironic that Othello believes Ago is truthful when he accuses Desman if dishonesty. Othello words ND thoughts begin to mirror Sago’s. For example, Othello adopts Sago’s misogynistic views, referring to “lewd minx” and “fair devil”. Also His language becomes violent. ; “I’ll tear her all to pieces! ” and begins to curse “O, damn her, damn her! Which echoes Sago’s coarse language and references to hell. At the end of Act 3, Scene 3, Othello kneels in front of Ago, demonstrating to the audience how powerful Ago has become. Ago then kneels down and they pledge loyalty to each other in a parody of an Elizabethan wedding ceremony. This shows Ago can influence innocent people to think and act like him. Yet in ‘Of Mice and Men’, The character The Boss’ is a key villain; he is described as the “short fat legged man”. The word ‘fat’ suggests that he is greedy and wealthy; he only wants everything for himself.
This also suggests that his power and reputation is the most important factor for him. To illustrate the power and authority to the audience Steinbeck cleverly did not mention the boss’s name throughout the entire novel. This further displays that the boss has high standards, thus the workers have no position to call him by his name. However, the characteristics of the boss implies to the traders that he does not believe in friendship or loyalty, the reason for this is the initial start of friendship begins with declaring of names.
Moreover, the boss acts in this manner also due to the fact that he is insecure and worried that he might lose his position and reputation. As well as that, the society at the time was harsh and cruel that people were unable to trust one another. The boss is an authoritative figure who is really suspicious for example the book states “Then why won’t you let him answer, what you trying to put over’; this is when George answers all the questions for Leonie and the boss starts butting both of them. The boss is clearly the villain in Of Mice and Men.
The reason for this is because he holds favorites, and does not treat everyone equally. For example he treats Crooks in an unjust manner just due to his race and color. This is clearly proven in the statement “but I can’t play because lime black. They say I stink’. This reveals that the boss’s perception also affected the rank workers. Therefore, overall this illustrates the boss is not a victim and merely a villain. Similarly, both of the antagonist ‘Ago’ and ‘The Boss’ have a high authority and is omnipotent.
Shakespeare and Steinbeck represents their authority in a clever way; for example In ‘Othello’ Ago starts and ends the first scene to indicate he is dominant . Whereas, in ‘Of Mice and Men’ Steinbeck does not mention the boss’s name throughout the entire novella to illustrate his power and command. Both characters uses their intelligence and importance as a tool to take in control of people. They have other characters happiness in their hands, which leaves them deciding how they are going to manipulate or humiliate them.
In ‘Othello’ Ago uses racial language such as ‘ The old black am’ and verbally abuses him and makes ‘The moor’ seem like an outsider. Ago also describes Othello as a ‘Barbara Horse’ creating an annalistic imagery. Likewise, The Boss also mistreats Crooks due to his skin color; he segregates him from the bunkhouse and gives him space in the barn. The Boss, categories Crooks with the animals giving him the same equality as a horse. This suggests they both are racist and vile. It also can imply they do not consider black people as human which arrays their villainous nature.
Furthermore, Both narratives show sympathetic male victims. In ‘Othello’ the Arcadian tenders ‘The moor’ as a protagonist and a hero in the play, he is a black soldier in a white society; it would be rare for a man of race to have such a highly respected position in Venetian society. However, everyone recognizes that he’s foreign and exotic. Therefore, Othello Is often described using racial language – Roding and Ago calls him “laborious moor”, “Barberry horse” and an “old black ram” in the first scene before Othello appears.
The word “lavishes” makes Othello seem savage. As well as this, by presenting bestial and annalistic images of Othello as a “ram” and “bar berry horse” sakes him seem vicious and inhuman. This shows Abrogation, Roding and Ago have all condemned him and they see him as an outsider due to his skin color. This informs the audience that Othello is clearly a victim of discrimination. The ‘Moor’ is also referred to using images of hell and devil because the color ‘ black’ was linked to evil in Jacobean times. This refers the racist society during the 1 ass’s.
In the 21st century the racial comments would be offensive and uncivil. Moreover, Othello is a victimized through Sago’s poisoned words, his faithful relationship is ruined by a scandalous amour: Desman is secretly seeing Cassia. The view of Othello as “not easily jealous” is supported and contradicted by the play. He doesn’t given in jealousy immediately, and says Desman “loves company” defending her and demanding for “ocular proof’ before he will believe her guilt. The strength of his jealousy arises in part from the strength of love.
He loves Desman “not wisely, but too well” – when he begins to suspect she is unfaithful, this passion changes from love to jealousy. Ago plays with his insecurity and fears, which leaves Othello emotionally and physically mental, believing he had been cuckolded. Therefore, Othello loses control of his actions and speech. Paradoxically, he thinks that killing Desman is the only way to ensure that their love survives and states “l will keep thee/and love thee after”. This suggests he always loved her and will love her. He commits suicide to punish himself for his crime.
Also as a tragic hero, he has no choice but to die: “no way but this”. Besides, In ‘Of Mice and Men’ Crooks is introduced to us in a very unique way. He is the only black person in the novella. Steinbeck describes all his belongings, creating a strong vivid picture in the readers head. Crooks the ‘negro stable buck’ lives alone in a small cramped room, he is not allowed to sleep in the bunkhouse, so instead he sleeps in the barn with the animals. This illustrates that he is getting the same equality as a horse is getting and being victimized like an animal, due to his color.
He is someone who is abused very unfairly and unjustly. He has many things from a pair of rubber boots, a clock, and a shotgun; he also has a dictionary, magazines, a few dirty books, and a pair of ‘gold’ spectacles. The ‘magazines, dictionary’ tells us that he is bookish and educated unlike the other men. The ‘dirty books’ expresses that crooks looks at woman’s pictures because he cannot get a women in reality. Crooks characteristics is very down to earth, He thinks that everyone is the same. He acts like this because people treat him like a door mat and hate on him because of his race.
The society during the sass’s was very racist and black people would be mistreated harshly. He is obviously a victim of prejudice because of his skin color which isolates him from the other men. ” Expose you didn’t have nobody. Expose you couldn’t go into the bunk house… “. This demonstrates He’s bitter and lonely. Comparably, Othello and Crooks are the only black character in the both text. They are victimized racially and are diminished. During the sass’s and sass’s the society was chauvinist and prejudice, therefore it was not shocking or vile in these times.
However, Shakespeare presents ‘Othello’ as a hero in the play, whereas, in ‘Of Mice and Men’ Steinbeck gives crooks a side role. ‘The Moor’ has been manipulated by Ago without even realizing as he is perceived Ago as a man of ‘exceeding honesty. Therefore, he is blind over his trust. This shows Othello naivety, but some audience may not feel sympathy or Othello because he easily suspected his wife unfaithful without any concrete proof. On the other hand, Crooks has been discriminated from other men, but he knows his equal rights and makes the audience feel sympathy for him saying “Expose you dint have nobody.
Expose you cuddy go into the bunk house… “. Crooks is very down to earth, he will not trust anyone and thinks everyone is the same due to his mistreatment. In addition, in cooperation text portray female victims. Desman is one of the main female characters in ‘Othello’; she is described in military terms as a fair warrior; which shows her strength of character. Desman is a white, upper class Venetian and would have been accepted to marry someone of the same class and race, but she rejects the society’s expectation and marries Othello instead.
Her Father (Abrogation) misjudges and disowns her due to the reason he would loose his ‘reputation’. This implies Desman is not racist towards black people and proves she plays a victim. Throughout the play, she’s a loyal wife and promises to herself she will be faithful to Othello as her mother was to Abrogation: “so much duty as my mother showed me”. Yet Othello assumes his wife is disloyal and adulterous believing in Sago’s dirty rumors. Ago uses her goodness for his own revenge.
Desman reveals her naivety about marriage as she refuses to believe unfaithful wives exists: “l do not there is any such women”. The idea of infidelity is unthinkable to her. This emphasizes her innocence. Despite her loyalty to her husband, Othello physically and verbally abuses her in public labeling her a “strumpet” and a “where”. Desman becomes increasingly vulnerable to Othello anger. She seems to defend her husband’s authority and blame herself for his outrage. Also excepting his previous abuse as she does not want to offend him ; “We must not now displease him”.
In the sixteenth century, women were expected to be seen but not heard, especially in their husband’s presence. Moreover, she accepts “wretched fortune” in act 4, Scene 3 she seems to anticipate her death – she sings a song which mirrors her life and is haunted by the thought “that song tonight/will not go from my mind”. This creates dramatic irony for the audience who know Othello plan, which is to murder his own wife. By the end of the play Othello tends to suffocate her until her heart beat has topped. Desman is the real victim in this tragic play.
Additionally, Steinbeck presents Curler’s wife as an isolated woman who is trapped in a marriage to Curler and is a possession according to him She is a victim because she does not have the freedom of doing what she always wanted, such as being an actress and being famous. She had big hopes and dreams but it all turned out to be the opposite because she married Curler. He treats her as his property, to show this to the readers, Steinbeck did not give her a name and labeled her ‘Curlers wife’ which is also proposing she is just an object. In the 1 ass’s women were not equal with men, Women could not even get out of the house.
It was a sexist society. Curler does not seem to give her much attention, this means she had no one to talk to, even if she wants to; “but can’t talk to no body but Curler. Else he gets mad”. This is what she says to Leonie. Meanwhile, she gets comfortable with Leonie and she tells him how ‘Lonely’ she feels and the way people do not care about her. For example “.. Seems like they anti none of them cares how I goat live” Her speech is characterized by the collective pronoun “they” and the singular round “l” which further signifies how she is marginalia from the other men and she feels completely alone in life.
Curlers wife is considered as a victim because towards the end the audience starts feeling sympathy for her and realizes that she is a warm hearted person. Straight after, she is mistakenly killed by Leonie. With in Curler’s wife’s death; everything dies such as the Hopes, The American dream and it also ends the novella with the sunset dying. Furthermore, both characters have been utilized as objects; they did not have the right to speak up but are there to only obey their husbands. Desman has been abused physically in public and is called a “strumpet” and a ‘Severe” – even though she is a loyal wife.
In ‘Of Mice and Men’ Steinbeck did not give her a name and labeled her as Curler’s wife’ which is proposing she is an object. Also, throughout, the novella she has been called a “Tart”. Steinbeck cleverly hints Curler’s wife gets abused by Curler as she wears a lot of makeup to cover her bruises. The society was patriarchy and sexist; Women were mistreated like a discarded cloth. Moreover, both characters had problems in their marriage; their husbands tend to care about the loss of heir reputation more than anything else. Ultimately, both texts teach us that the society is the true, silent villain.
This is because Women were treated as objects- they were seen as items to use for the purpose, benefit and satisfaction of men. Although even now, in the millennium era, women are portrayed as objects through sexual exploitation; therefore this highlights the fact that society as a leader, overdoses its generation with brain- tangling ideas to manipulate people’s thoughts and create stereotypes. Another reason to clarify the society is the real scoundrel, s because black people were victimized and mistreated like animals, which is discriminatory and racism.
The society is confused because Othello is a black man and he is considered as a white due to the reason he wins the war. This can suggest that the society believe black people are not capable of winning – hinting they are weak. The characters in ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Othello’ tend to care more about status and reputation than themselves. For example, Othello had killed his beloved wife and himself to escape from his reputation loss. Whereas, in ‘Of Mice and Men’ Curler lies; his hand got in the machine to save his reputation.

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