Within this essay I am going to analyse and compare how William Shakespeare and Robert Browning portray flaws in each of their plays/poems, which I have studied. The Robert Browning poems that I have decided to use in comparison to Othello, are The Laboratory – Ancien Regime and Porphyria’s Lover. I strongly believe that all poems present a pertinent amount of flaws and the poets determine these flaws depending on the theme of the poem. Whilst making these comparisons it will become evident how the poet’s writing styles differ, or contain similarities.
The tragedy of Othello was approximated to be written in 1603. Within Act One scene three of the tragedy of Othello, Shakespeare uses imagery and repetition to present what I surmise to be one of the flaws within this tragedy. Iago says, “I hate the moor”. The word ‘hate’ is intentionally used by the poet to demonstrate to the audience Iago and Othello’s relationship, which evidently is ungenial. Shakespeare selected the word ‘hate’ within this particular quotation because of the meaningful and substantial definition it occupies. I believe that its definition is to dislike passionately. I perceive that by Iago using the word ‘moor’ he is referring to Othello because previously in the tragedy, Iago and Roderigo are having a conversation with Othello and Desdemona shortly before. As well as the fact that the word ‘moor’ actually defines a dark complected man, who most likely originates from a Muslim background. Only the character of Othello matches to a similar description in the tragedy, which conclusively reassures the audience that Iago is definitely referring to Othello.
Again within the same act and scene in the tragedy of Othello, Shakespeare intentionally uses repetition to display Iago’s flaws of paranoia and hatred towards Othello. When Roderigo leaves, Iago makes a statement which makes it evident to the audience that it is a soliloquy. He states, “I hate the moor, And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office. I know not if’t b true yet I, for mere suspicion in that kind..” Here again he expresses his hate for Othello. Shakespeare intentionally does this to generate the impression to the audience, that his hatred is broadening and excessively portray the extent of his hate towards Othello.
However Shakespeare gives the audience a possible reason as to why Iago has developed such hatred. The reason Shakespeare gives is because Iago suspects that Othello has had an affair with his wife. He has no proof, yet the slight suspicion is satisfactory for him to believe that there is some truth within the rumour. The language device that Shakespeare used to express this is iambic pentameter. This leads the audience to presume that Iago is being honest, because the rhythm of the sentence is aligned with your heartbeat. This implies to the audience, that there is a possibility Iago is being honest. It is also a soliloquy. We should consider this, as there are no other characters he could be lying to other than himself. As you can see Iago’s paranoia has broadened his hatred for Othello hence we can see that this is an evident flaw, bearing in mind that he has insufficient evidence. Another flaw which we are given the implication that Iago has, is trust. Evidently he mistrusts his wife as he does not completely doubt the rumour. This contributes to his paranoia.
The Laboratory – Ancien Regime was written by Robert Browning and published in 1844. Within this poem I believe that Browning has used similar language devices in order to present flaws in the characters. Within stanza three line ten it is evident that the flaws of revenge, hatred and anger are all inclined by Browning into the character. Temporarily capitalising on the quotation, we can see exactly how Browning presents these flaws. The character exclaimed, “Pound at thy powder, — I am not in haste!” By reading the poem thoroughly I discovered that the character is a woman in a laboratory with a poison maker. Instantly the audience is given the impression that the woman is instructing the poison maker to continue pounding the paste, which is the form of poison he is creating for her. Secondly she clearly states that she is not a rush. I believe that the poet purposely does this to implicate how important the creation of the poison is to the woman. Convinced that the man she has consulted in the laboratory is a poison maker, she knows that he is familiar of what he is doing. I also believe that by informing the poison maker she is in no rush, the poet creates the impression that she wants the poison to be made to an immaculate standard. By the poison maker taking his time and believably concentrating, this will enable him to do so. Therefore this displays how adamant she is in executing the poisoning, regardless of how much of her time will be consumed by its creation.
The poet begins the first sector of the line with, ‘Pound at thy powder’. This is alliteration, which I believe the poet intentionally uses to emphasise the action of the poison maker pounding the paste. The poet also includes assonance using ‘powder’ and ‘pound’ which is the repetition of vowels within words. This certainly is done purposely to attract the audience’s attention to that particular event within the poem. Conclusively from this quotation we can see the character’s flaws are anger, hatred and revenge. We can see that the extent of her anger and hatred has prompted the character to serenely and patiently wait for the poison to be created. In comparison to Othello we can see that there are similarities and differences in the way that flaws are presented. Within Othello we are immediately given a reason as to why Iago has such passionate hate for Othello. We are presented with these flaws through the poet using iambic pentameter and incorporating it into the tragedy as a soliloquy. There is a slight twist due to the fact that there is still no concrete evidence, yet Iago has developed such flaws.
However in comparison to The laboratory – Ancien Regime we are not specifically told why the character is at the laboratory and her motive behind poisoning the other character, who is not introduced. The poet intentionally does this as, as the audience we have to unravel the reason through language devices used. For example in stanza two line one the character says, “He is with her, and they know that I know”. Within this quotation it is implied that ‘he’ previously had some ownership over her or they even had a relationship. However we are not specifically told. The poet specifically does this to leave the audience to discover their own interpretations, furthermore to also leave the quotation ambiguous. By incorporating the quotation in the poem with such ambiguity, we are still uncertain as to any motives the character has behind the poisoning. Evidently in comparison to Othello, we can see that there is a significantly larger amount of ambiguity in how Browning has presented flaws.
Porphyria’s lover was written in 1836 by Robert Browning and is a dramatic monologue. Throughout the poem, it is constructed in an A, B, A, B, B format. I believe that Browning has done this in order to express the calmness in the narrator’s tone and language. The format enables the first and third lines to rhyme and the second, fourth and fifth lines to rhyme. From the title of the poem we are given the implication that whoever is speaking in the poem, is likely to be Porphyria’s lover. Within the title alone the poet has given us this implication through imagery. Browning’s structure of the fifth line implies that the speaker may be mentally unstable. This is due to the fact that he says directly after the descriptions of the weather, “I listened with heart fit to break”. Within this quotation the speaker says that he is listening to the sounds of the weather and he is becoming heartbroken. Why would somebody who is genuinely mentally stable, become heartbroken over a storm? I believe that Browning intentionally does this to leave the reason ambiguous and entirely up to the audiences own interpretations.
Alternatively in comparison to Othello I believe that Shakespeare is slightly limited to certain language devices and structures that he is enabled to use. This is due to the fact that it is tragedy, whereas Porphyria’s lover is a dramatic monologue. If Shakespeare was to try and incorporate certain language devices, it would disrupt the flow and tone to an extent in the tragedy. For example when Iago says, “Men should be what they seem. Or those that be not, would they might seem none”. Within this quotation my interpretation of Iago’s message, is if people are dishonest they should not look like they are honest. People should be what they appear to be. This is rather ironic coming from the most manipulative and dishonest character in the poem. The poet intentionally modifies the tragedy so that the quotation comes from Iago, which introduces dramatic irony into the tragedy. This is because as the audience we know that he is being a hypocrite as he himself is dishonest, however Othello does not know this. Within this quotation, it is now evident that Iago has additional flaws, which are hypocrisy and manipulative character. We know that he is a manipulative character because he does not confront Othello who he ‘loves’. Also Othello has major trust in Iago which is at his own disadvantage. In Act three scene three Iago says, “My lord, you know I love you”. This is part of Iago’s persuasion to Othello that Desdemona is being honest with Othello. Repeatedly, Shakespeare intentionally does this to portray dramatic irony. We know that he can not love Othello as he is manipulating him into thinking that his wife is having an affair, using his manipulative character to indulge some of the other characters in his plans. Here it is evident that a constant flaw that Iago has is a manipulative character and an additional flaw of dishonesty.
Back to capitalising on the Laboratory – Ancien Regime the character states a quotation which displays the flaws of jealousy, envy and hate. The character states, “But to light pastile and Elise, with her head and her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead”. Within this quotation it is evident that she is jealous of the particular features, which the pastile will literally destroy. I noticed within this quotation that Browning consistently repeats the word ‘and’. I believe that he does this to make it obvious to the audience, the continuation of events. This is called enjambment which is where there are no pauses after a sentence, which leads to a continuation of events. Browning could have simply inserted commas, however he uses this language device. Within this quotation envy is also displayed as it is implied that she dislikes her features, most likely because she desires to have them. Within this particular part of the play the character is planning and telling the audience about how long the person she intends to kill, has left. In comparison to Othello we can see that Shakespeare personifies a flaw, in order illustrate to the audience that Othello should be aware of his jealousy. This is evident when Iago says, “O beware, my lord of jealousy…” Within this quotation Iago cautions Othello to monitor his jealousy. He personifies jealousy as says that jealousy mocks it’s victims. The literal meaning of this quotation, is to not become jealous too quickly. He has also used figurative language. The poet intentionally does this to display the flaw and indirectly tell him to trust his wife, as she suspects that she is having an affair.