Will there be any tragedy if we replace Macbeth or Othello with Hamlet or vice versa?
5 Answers | Add Yours
I am not sure the exact purpose of the question. But if you mean, can any of these tragedies entirely replace another, I would say no. While I prefer Macbeth to the other two tragedies, each tragedy, although following a specific formula, has something different to offer.
Macbeth discusses the nature of power and the influence of evil or perhaps even just the influence of suggestion. The playing of the sexual power of the women, Lady Macbeth and the witches, is very uncommon especially for the time period.
Hamlet deals with the idea of revenge and how consuming such a task can be. Hamlet becomes his own worst enemy, moreso than his uncle even is. Poor Ophelia is an innocent victim in his search for revenge. In addition, Shakespeare looks closely at the human flaw of indecisiveness and how our indecision can get us into more trouble than if we just choose and commit.
Finally, Othello can be looked at with a race issue lens. In addition, it again comments on power but in a different way than Macbeth. Instead of looking at the duty of a subserviant to his king (Macbeth to Duncan), it is more closely looking at the power of ambition and how someone's drive for power can lead to the loss of life. It also features an interesting web of lies that leads to numerous characters' deaths as well as others moral ruin.
So I think there is something to be learned from each of these plays. There are some overlapping ideas, sure, but it is certainly not redundant in any way.
An interesting idea--to take one of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, place him in a different situation, and consider the possibilities in terms of tragic outcomes. The premise falls apart when we consider that Hamlet would not have acted as Macbeth acted, for instance, since Hamlet was not driven by ambition, and Othello would not have acted as Hamlet acted, since Othello lacked Hamlet's keen powers of observation and analysis in assessing the behavior of others. That said, Shakespeare's tragedies develop not from external situations but from internal complexities of character. It might be reasonable to assume that Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello would find themselves enmeshed in tragedy in any dire situation, since they carry the seeds of tragedy within their own flawed characters.
Ideally, each tragic hero is inextricable from the particular play in which he is embedded. Since all three tragedies are highly complex and highly unified works of art, it would really be impossible to transplant any of these tragic heroes into a different play. One could argue that all three heroes are irrational in different was, as L. B. Campbell argues in her book Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes -- Slaves of Passion, but even Campbell argues that each of these men is a slave a particular and distinct kind of passion.
I think you are suggesting that if you switched the characters things would turn out differently. They certainly would. Tragic situations are caused by the traits of the characters but also the circumstances surrounding them.
I think the story would be different if you changed the main character, but it would still have a similar ending. Even if Hamlet were in Othello's shoes, Iago would still be there dripping poison into his ear. Perhaps he would be able to see through Iago, but Iago was very inventive. He would have changed his pattern and come up with another way to trick Hamlet into the same fall as Othello. All of Shakespeare's characters fall into a deep internal struggle which is amplified by their situation. I think any of these characters would still fall into tragedy. Perhaps not the same tragedy, but a disastrous end none the less.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes