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In both Othello and in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses the device of fateful...

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williamnoah | eNoter

Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:29 PM via web

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In both Othello and in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses the device of fateful mistakes to develop the tragic action. Can similar kinds of mistakes be said to happen in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), but to comic ends instead?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:28 AM (Answer #1)

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This play deliberately seeks to create comedy out of what, in Shakespeare's other plays, he uses to create tragedy. For example, a whole set of mistakes result in tragic consequences in Shakespeare's tragedies. Whether it is based on mistaken assumptions or accidents of fate, such as the message that the Friar sends to Romeo not being delivered, tragedy occurs because of mistakes.

However, in this play, the same kind of mistakes are used to create comedy. For example, in the opening scene, when the Professor shows Constance the engagement ring, she assumes he is proposing to him, and it is a moment of comedy when the Professor reveals that he is going to propose to the rather precocious female student who has already entered Constance's office before. In the same way, in Act II scene 2, Desdemona sees Othello places a diamond necklace around Constance's neck, taking it from, as the stage directions specify, a box that is just a "larger version of the velvet box that Professor Night had in Act I scene 1." This is of course not what it appears to be, and it eventually transpires that it is Desdemona's birthday present from Othello that he is showing to Constance. Desdemona sees this act and interprets it as something else, which is used to demonstrate her character and her pugnacious attitude. Note what she says when she sees this happening:

Festoons the whore with baubles!

The presentation of Desdemona's character, who is more warlike and bellicose than Othello himself, is a moment of comedy as it challenges the audiences notion of this rather weak and passive female character as she is presented in Shakespeare's Othello. Again, similar ideas are present in the play when Constance meets Romeo and Juliet and a series of mistakes causes both of these characters to be revealed as sex-crazed individuals rather than characters who are famous for their love for each other. This play proves that there is a very thin line indeed separating comedy from tragedy, and the same ingredients can be used to create either.

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