Insecurity and Deception in Hamlet and Othello In both Hamlet and Othello we see the tragic hero’s insecurity lead to their demise. Hamlet’s doubt and indecisiveness lead to his rage and seeming madness, and Othello’s insecurity about his otherness leads to Iago’s ability to easily deceive and mislead Othello. Iago’s deception of Othello led to his rage and jealousy which ultimately cause his demise, while Hamlet’s fear of being wrong led to his own deception of everyone around him and thus caused his own demise. In each play we see the protagonist become consumed with their goals of revenge to the point of madness, and in both plays there is a level of distance created by Shakespeare between the reader and the characters so we see that their madness shows they are no longer the same character. Othello’s fear of his otherness allows Iago to easily manipulate him and cause his rage, madness, and ultimate downfall, and Hamlet’s naturally contemplative need for the truth leads to his deception of others (through feigned madness) and his ultimate downfall as well. While Othello’s insecurities allowed him to be tricked by Iago’s deception, Hamlet defeats himself with his feigned madness in search for the complete truth.
Othello’s acknowledgement of his differences is not the first that we encounter in the play, Iago labels Othello as the “old black ram” in the very beginning of the play. As readers we are forced to acknowledge that Othello is not the same as the other character he is surrounded by. The obvious occurrence of Othello’s differences is a key reason why Iago was able to enter into his thoughts and dismantle him and Desdemona’s relationship. Othello’s lack of confidence in his love for himself caused him to not trust Desdemona either.
Othello views his age and race as malefactors of his and Desdemona’s relationship. Iago senses these weaknesses and uses these to help frame his own evil plot against Othello. Othello’s complete transparency about his insecurities shows that while he is honest and brave, he is unsure about the intentions of others. Throughout the course of the play, Othello puts more and more trust in Iago, demanding visual proof of Desdemona’s betrayal. Othello’s inability to hide his emotions allows Iago to continue his plot.
We see the same unfortunate series of events within the tragedy of Hamlet. Hamlet’s insecurity, however, comes in the form of his constant doubt and indecisiveness about the decisions he must make. He is also determine to figure out who exactly killed his father. Though, he assumes it is his uncle Claudius who has murdered his father, his own plans to find out Claudius’s intentions result in his foolish actions and harsh words. Hamlet’s madness serves as an act to disguise his true motives of discovering who was involved in his father’s murder. His actions result in the death of Polonius, Ophelia, and eventually all of the characters.
The first instance of Hamlet’s insecurities causing his death is in the love of his life, Ophelia, committing suicide because she is led to believe that Hamlet no longer loves her. Therefore in his efforts to conceal his feelings for Ophelia from outsiders, he crushes the feelings of Ophelia. He continuously shows public displays of madness and teases her during the performance of his play. Eventually this leads to the pain and confusion in Ophelia that lead her to commit suicide.
When Claudius learns of Hamlet’s effort to expose him through his play, he decides that Hamlet must die. However, it Hamlet had never been so adamant to prove himself right in the public before