Jealousy And Mistaken Identity In Shakespeare Essay

, Research Paper

William Shakespeare?s life is somewhat

of a mystery to scholars due to the fact that most information that is

known is very scattered and sparse. No one knows the exact date of

Shakespeare?s birth, but his baptism occurred on Wednesday, April 26, 1564.

His father was John Shakespeare, a tanner, glover, dealer in grain, and

town official of Stratford. His mother, Mary, was the daughter of

Robert Arden, a prosperous gentleman-farmer. William Shakespeare

and his family lived on Henley Street.

A bond dated November 28, 1582 stated that

William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway entered into a marriage contract.

The baptism of their eldest child, Susanna, took place in Stratford in

May of 1583. Hamnet and Judith, their twins were christened in the

same church one year and nine months later. In May of 1597, Shakespeare

purchased a residential property in Stratford called New Place.

Due to the fact that his father had suffered financial problems prior to

this date, it is assumed that Shakespeare must have achieved success by

himself. On March 25, 1616 William Shakespeare revised his last will

and testament. He died on April 23, 1616.

There are certainly many things in which

scholars cannot explain about the life of William Shakespeare, however

the facts that do exist are enough to identify him as a real person.

He was a writer who, for the last three hundred years, has continued to

be a major influence on drama and poetry. Shakespeare wrote thirty-seven

plays that are all very unique in their style and subject matter.

The themes vary anywhere from extreme jealousy to silly humor. Two

major themes that are apparent in a lot of Shakespeare?s works are mistaken

identity and jealousy.

The idea of mistaken identity as a plot

device in comedies dates all the way back to the writers, Menander and

Plautus, in the Greek and Roman times. Shakespeare borrowed that

device and used it to further his plots in his comedies. His artistic

use of mistaken identity is brilliantly used in many of his plays.

In Shakespeare?s comedy, The Comedy of

Errors, mistaken identity is the sole story line of the play. The

idea of asking how one really knows who one is, is introduced, but the

problems that will occur between appearance and reality are not totally

realized. As Shakespeare begins to write more about mistaken identity,

his comic style using this ploy begins to develop more and more.

In a very simple form, mistaken identity

is shown in Twelfth Night. The twins are mistaken for each other

and this brings about a comic conflict throughout the play. This

simple form of the plot device is extended when it becomes known that one

twin is actually a girl who would not normally be mistaken for her brother.

This is a result because she has resorted to a disguise. Viola disguising

herself as Cessario is a beginning to the double meanings throughout the

dialogue that Shakespeare uses as comedy within the playing of the words.

When her twin brother, Sebastian, arrives her passive nature is mistaken

to be his and he is married to Olivia who thinks he is his disguised sister.

As an audience member, part of the fun of mistaken identity is the sole

enjoyment of trying to keep who is who straight and knowing something that

the actors do not.

Disguise is one of Shakespeare?s

favorite devices, found in many of his works. Through it he alters

the identity of an individual, which creates an elevated irony, a developed

theme, and an enhanced comic element to the story. In As You Like

It, Shakespeare, by having characters in disguise, creates an outlet for

new ironies and comic twists throughout the work. The shepherdess

who is in love with the ?shepherd? Ganymede who is really a girl (Rosalind)

is one of the comic twists, as well as Orlando sharing feelings of love

to Ganymede who is really Orlando?s love Rosalind in disguise. Once

again the hidden and mistaken identity constructs this plot and furthers

its comedy. The entire purpose of mistaken identity can only be accomplished

when a disguise is shown in the way to say and experience things in the

one identity that can only be accomplished by the altar identity: this

is what composes the comedy within the words. For example, in Measure

For Measure, the Duke uses disguise and mistaken identity to reveal the

truth about Angelo, while simultaneously providing comic moments when Lucio

speaks of the Duke to the Duke unaware of his true identity.

Another re-occurring theme throughout Shakespeare?s

plays is jealousy. Perhaps the most outstanding form appears in Othello.

It is a classic story of boy meets girl and the jealous lover, only with

an extremely tragic ending. Othello and Desdemona are in love with

each other. Iago, the antagonist, wants Desdemona for himself and

is extremely jealous of Othello. He plots a scheme to make Othello

believe that Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. Without

even asking Desdemona if it is true or not, Othello kills her by smothering

her. Then, after becoming cognizant of the truth, he kills himself.

Jealousy is a hard subject to write and read about because it is an emotion

of terror, meaning that it can be extremely dangerous in any situation.

Jealousy can produce tragic denouements. Iago says in the play, ?Oh

beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which

doth mock the meat it feeds on.? Perhaps the theme of Othello is

that it is wise to find out the truth before jumping to conclusions because

jealousy can eat away your heart.

The theme of jealousy throughout Shakespeare?s

plays is a great plot device because it is a very universal emotion, whereas

mistaken identity is exactly the opposite; it is something we can look

at and know that it would never happen, therefore we laugh. Both

devices are efficient and produce extremely different reactions.

In A Midsummer Night?s Dream the jealousy is very differently portrayed

than it is in Othello. Hermia and Lysander are in love, however Demetrius

is in love with Hermia as well. Helena is in love with Demetrius

and very admirable of Hermia. ?O, teach me how you look and with

what art you sway the motion of Demetrius? heart.? The jealousy in

this play is in its simplest form. Helena is jealous of the love

that Demetrius has for Hermia and wants his attention turned toward her.

This type of jealousy is not even close to the extreme it was in Othello,

however it produces the same reaction that it is a universal emotion.

Helena?s jealousy is more of an admiration, whereas Othello and Iago?s

jealousy is more of a desperation.

Shakespeare?s use of the two literary devices,

mistaken identity and jealousy, are only a suggestion of everything else

he wrote about in his literature. They are elements within his works

that reoccur and help in furthering the plot within the story. William

Shakespeare wrote with many different approaches and about many different

subjects. The devices he used within his literature are only an addition

to the words Shakespeare wrote so beautifully.



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