What are some differences between Macbeth and Othello?

There are many differences between the characters Macbeth and Othello. Macbeth's fatal flaw is "vaulting ambition," while Othello's is jealousy. Macbeth's schemes lead to his downfall. Iago manipulates Othello and causes his demise. The men also have different relationships with their wives. Othello is smitten with Desdemona, but eventually murders her because he believes she has an affair. Macbeth is easily manipulated by Lady Macbeth, and she dies when she realizes Macbeth cares more about the throne than her.

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Macbeth is an accomplished Scottish soldier and thane who rises to the position of king after receiving prophecies from the Three Witches and assassinating Duncan. Unlike Othello, Macbeth is not an outsider in European society and does not seem to be insecure about his appearance or age. After...

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Macbeth is an accomplished Scottish soldier and thane who rises to the position of king after receiving prophecies from the Three Witches and assassinating Duncan. Unlike Othello, Macbeth is not an outsider in European society and does not seem to be insecure about his appearance or age. After Macbeth assassinates King Duncan, he is determined to cement his legacy and develops into a bloodthirsty tyrant. Macbeth's tragic flaw is his "vaulting ambition," which motivates him to commit regicide. Macbeth experiences a myriad of hallucinations at various points in the play, and eventually develops into a careless, brash ruler. He is overconfident in his ability to defeat his rivals. At the end of the play, Macbeth is killed by Macduff during his final battle.

In contrast, Othello is a Moor, and is an accomplished Venetian general. Othello does not interact with any witches or receive any prophecies. Instead, he is manipulated by Iago. Iago is Othello's primary antagonist, who convinces him that Desdemona is carrying on an affair with the attractive Michael Cassio. Unlike Macbeth, Othello's tragic flaw is his jealousy. He proceeds to plot revenge on his beloved wife Desdemona after Iago convinces him of her infidelity. In contrast, Macbeth never attempts to purposely harm Lady Macbeth; he simply becomes distant from her as the play progresses. However, Othello is determined to kill his wife after he finds circumstantial evidence and speaks to Iago. Othello proceeds to murder Desdemona, while Macbeth discovers that his wife committed suicide. Unlike Macbeth, Othello takes his own life at the end of the play.

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The protagonists in Shakespeare's tragedies tend to be men in positions of some degree of power, who then fall from grace due to a flaw in themselves—the so-called fatal flaw, or hamartia. There are certainly similarities between Othello and Macbeth: both are soldiers, well-thought-of in their societies, who are encouraged by external forces to do terrible things. Their fatal flaws, however, are not the same. Where Macbeth is driven by a weakness for ambition and a desire for power, Othello's flaw is jealousy. Iago knows this and is able to manipulate him using it.

There are other differences, too. While Macbeth and Othello both become murderers, Othello murders only his wife. Macbeth, by contrast, begins with the murder of his king and then escalates to further killings. He is working at first on the orders of his wife—she is not his victim. Furthermore, we see a lot of the inner workings of Macbeth's mind as we watch his downfall progress. In Othello, it is not the inner workings of Othello we see so much as those of Iago, the villain, to whom falls most of the soliloquys and deliberations.

In simplistic terms, there's also the fact that Othello is black and Macbeth is white, Othello is living in Italy and Macbeth in Scotland, and they are living in different time periods.

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The main difference between the two is that Macbeth enters into a pact with the forces of darkness to get what he wants. Othello, on the other hand, succumbs to the baleful influence of the wicked Iago. Iago may be evil, but there's no sense in which he summons up the forces of darkness to whip Othello into a jealous rage.

Macbeth's relations with his wife are also completely different to those between Othello and Desdemona. Initially, Macbeth is easily manipulated and controlled by Lady Macbeth, who is the main mover behind the treacherous plot to kill Duncan. Desdemona, though a feisty and spirited woman, remains unfailingly loyal to her husband no matter what he puts her through. One certainly can't imagine Desdemona questioning her husband's virility in the way that Lady Macbeth does Macbeth's.

In that sense, Othello is different from Macbeth in that he does not allow his wife to influence the important decisions in his life. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his dealings with Iago, who takes on a similar role with regards to Othello as Lady Macbeth does in relation to her husband.

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Both Macbeth and Othello are protagonists in eponymous tragic plays by William Shakespeare. Thus, both characters have tragic flaws that lead to their downfall; the similarities, however, end there. Othello's tragic flaw has to do with his unfounded jealousy that causes him to act in irrational and ultimately self-destructive ways. His actions are driven by his desperate love for his wife Desdemona and the agonizing jealousy that then accompanies it. Othello is a rash character, driven by is passion. Macbeth, on the other hand, is more passive and is driven more by his wife's strength of character than by his own will. His tragic flaw has to do with his ambition. Even though he lacks the passion of an Othello, he is very ambitious and this ultimately brings about his downfall.

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One key difference is that Macbeth is the more obviously evil figure.  He makes a bad choice early in the play and then keeps "doubling down" on that choice throughout the work. In contrast, Othello makes a crucial mistake late in the play, and for all kinds of reasons his evil does not affect nearly as many people as Macbeth's does. Othello is far more a victim than Macbeth is.

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One difference is in what it is that leads to their downfall.  Macbeth is driven to his downfall by his excessive ambition -- he wants so badly to be king.  By contrast, Othello's downfall is caused by his jealousy -- he is very jealous with regard to his wife.

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