Character Analysis Of Shakespeares Plays English Literature Essay
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 1092 words||✅ Published: 1st Jan 2015|
It is common knowledge that Shakespeare’s characters are very complex. A great number of Shakespeare’s protagonists are situated at the intersection of public and private, namely public life and private life. This is a statement which applies to most of his historical or tragic characters, especially those who oscillate between being a king and being a father, a son, a husband, a man. His history plays portray antithetical characteristic features and the inner turmoil which takes place due to the tension, the conflict between public and private life.
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Generally speaking, this is only the ideal of a king, because in most cases there is a strong symbiosis between the public and the private lives of a man, which can only highlight the conflicts between the two dimensions. A king has to deal with state affairs, but once he is a husband and a father, he also has to take into account his family. Vice versa, once a married man becomes king, he has to learn how to make the difference between his private and his public life without letting them interfering.
Nevertheless, this is not always valid in all Shakespeare’s plays. To begin with, In King Lear, for example, the action of the play lays mainly in the sphere of family and portraits the relationship between parents and children. The main character of the play is Lear, an old king who decides that it would be better if he resigned and divided his kingdom among his three daughters. He is guilty of not making the difference between his public and his private life.
Moreover, Lear is not only a father; he is also a monarch, which means he has both a public and a private life. In his private life, he has the right to become old and ill but, as a king, oldness and sickness must not affect his public persona. It appears that his family’s problems interfere with the kingdom’s ones since they involve the heirs of the country. Not knowing his daughters triggers problems to the kingdom.
At the beginning of the play, it is revealed that Lear values appearances above reality and he is unable to distinguish them thus, in his public life, he has to deal with the consequences of his mistakes from his private life. He expects to hear flattery from his daughters even if what they say is nothing but a lie. Furthermore, he still wants to be treated as a king but he does not want to take full responsibility regarding the kingdom. Probably this happens because he wants to spend more time in his private life than in the public one.
At the opening of the play, Lear considers public self more important than the private self, trying to do what is best for his kingdom, but without disregarding his family. What he wants is a peaceful kingdom in which his three daughters reign without battles, helping each other. As the reader progresses throughout the play, he discovers that, until the end, the importance of the two selves becomes reversed. When Lear is finally rejoined with Cordelia in a moment of privacy, he has no interest in his public life. There is a striking change of priorities in Lear’s life, a major contrast in Lear at the beginning of the play and Lear portrayed before his death.
Secondly, a similar situation can be encountered in Hamlet. The homonymous character has to learn how to balance his two personas: the public one, the one of being prince and the private one, being the son. This character deepens so much in his obsession, in his private life, that he forgets about his public one. To him, it does not matter that he is the prince of Denmark and the future king, all that he wants is to prove his uncle’s culpability.
Being obsessed with discovering and then revealing the truth, Hamlet is no longer interested in the aspects which are threatening the country, being concerned only with the problems in his family: the death of his father, his mother’s immediate marriage. His private life is totally overwhelmed with his decision to unmask the culprit in such a way that he no longer treasures what he loves. He rejects Ophelia and treats her as if she meant nothing to him, hurting her and he accuses his mother of not being loyal to his father.
Hamlet exposes his true feelings through his soliloquies in which the reader can cast a glance in his soul and discover his private thoughts. Hamlet feels disappointed because so much he loved and cherished his father, that he is unable to accept the fact that his mother actually remarried. He is a man who does not avoid to confront his own imperfections and who refuses illusions and fake ideals.
His inner thoughts are in contradiction with his public actions. He is thoughtful and philosophical, thinking about life, afterlife, about his suicide, but when he has to act, he does it impulsively, hurting and disturbing the ones surrounding him.
His plan of unmasking his uncle is constructed in a clever and allusive way. What results is the fact that Claudius feels unconformable at the sight of Hamlet’s innuendos and exposes himself by leaving the room.
Thirdly, the theme of public and private lives also appears in Richard II. The major character enjoys kingship without really involving himself in the state’s affairs. Although, at the beginning of the play, he may look like a devoted king, he start losing his kingship when he feels threatened by Henry’s army, ending with giving away his crown before dying.
Shakespeare wrote more other plays in which this situation is dramatized, most of them having a tragic end. The reader will find the conflict between public and private lives in plays such Othello, Troilus and Cressida, Macbeth or Julius Caesar.
Finally, being both a king and a man is not quite a simple matter. One must understand that being the king means representing the desires and wishes of the entire realm, the entire people, their wishes being more important than the king’s since the monarch is the embodiment of his subjects. A king has to understand that the people’s problems are more important than his and that he must place his public life above his private self, his political persona being superior to the private one. A king must fully understand his position in the state. Not observing this rule may cause chaos to the kingdom, may conduct to him losing his crown. Characters such as Lear, Richard II or Hamlet do not understand their position and this causes problems to the kingdom.
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