Essay about Universal truth (Shakespeare)
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In both “Othello” and “Oedipus Rex” to a great extent, the emotions provoked by familiar human experiences are acceptable to all people of all times. It is a fact that “Human nature remains the same (Kiernan Ryan 1989).” Both plays explore issues surrounding emotions like love, envy, jealousy and pride provoked by life experiences such as racism, fate, rifts between parent and child, a quest for position through deception or for justice or an intoxicating sense of being all powerful which transcend time. Most importantly they all are familiar to traditional and contemporary time periods.
Love, that is unconditional love, a universal emotion, is said to transcend all barriers. Desdemona falls in love unconditionally with the idea of a…show more content…
It confirms that perception and alerts us of his anger and disappoint. The reaction is real and the emotions that the situation evokes are acceptable. On the Duke’s suggestion that Desdemona stays with her father while Othello is at war, the father responds, “I’ll have it not so.” People of all times can relate and empathise with Brabantio, the parent, for the feelings of betrayal he experiences and Desdemona’s pain for the loss of the love of a father who disowns her.
The animal imagery used by the envious Iago, when referring to Othello and the marriage, carries racial undertones. Examples of these are, “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” (1.1.89-90), “you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans.” (1.1.111-114) and “your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” (1.1.115-8). Iago is able to infuriate Brabantio with these racial and sexually repulsive and deliberately inflammatory terms to describe the union between Othello and Desdemona. Like this time period, during the mid- twentieth century, inter-racial marriages were still made illegal in South Africa for example and as late as 1991, a Gallop Poll showed that 42% of American disapproved of marriages between people of different races. These are the factors that enable all people of all times to relate to the themes of the play and the issues they portray and
Everyone has heard of Romeo & Juliet, but does every understand it the same way? If one were to take a copy of the play to a small town in Texas, a village in Malawi or to a city in Malaysia, would the people reading the play interpret it the same way? Would they be able to understand it in the way that Shakespeare intended?
With all renowned pieces of literature (including plays), once we consider them to become a household name, we automatically assume that anyone will appreciate the beauty, the message, the characters, and understand the deeper undertones. However, that is not always the case. We live in such a globalized society with people from all different corners of the world who practice different religions, speak different languages, and are a part of different cultures.
In the West, we like to assume that Romeo & Juliet is a tale of two star-crossed lovers who deserved to be together and had a heartbreakingly beautiful ending. In the East, while the same story is being read and interpreted, the disobedience portrayed by the star-crossed lovers might be of a higher importance than the fact that they were in love and believed to be destined for each other. It is impossible to say that there is a correct or even universal interpretation of any piece of literature, especially Shakespeare where there is so much to pick up on that the main story might be lost in the subplots.
The lack of universality does not stop with Romeo & Juliet, no, it ventures out to all his other works such as Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Macbeth. Regardless of how well known the play is and how insightful and elegant the writing is when describing human ways, it is hard to say that all the works are universal. It is, however, more appropriate to be saying that the works are timeless.
Saying Shakespeare's works are timeless are merely saying that across his works the question of what it means to be human is thoroughly examined if it is not so clear at first. There is no right or wrong way a character is acting or a scene is happening. Reading a work by Shakespeare causes an individual to really think about the in-between; think about the gray areas that we push to the back of our mind and pretend don't exist. It is not sustainable nor progressional to ignore the gray areas about humanity and society. There is a constant struggle with rationality and imagination, passion and reasoning. Maybe in this regard, Shakespeare's work is universal. Maybe those who read Shakespeare in Italy will be able to understand what is meant between the written lines the same way that people in Benin will or people in Kuwait.
Maybe at the end of the day, Shakespeare did not intend for readers to focus so much on the actual plot of the story but rather the underlying themes and messages. While around the world people are interpreting the works differently, maybe we are all also interpreting it the same. In the West, we may think it is wrong for Claudius to kill his brother, the King, and then marry his widowed wife and become the new King. However, in some countries on the African continent where there are tribe leaders in the villages, they might wonder why Claudius waited so long after his late brother's death to marry Gertrude and why Hamlet was in love with Ophelia but could not marry her even though his ranking would benefit Polonius.
In a globalized society, everyone's individual interpretation is guided by the environment in which they were raised in, the way they were taught to view things at school, at home, or on the playground, and the people they interacted with on a daily basis. While Shakespeare is deemed to be universal, and by all means, the titles are recognizable, is it possible that the works were intended to be interpreted differently in order to get people to talk more about the themes, the characters, and the relationship to society? Is it possible that Shakespeare wanted to create works so powerful, yet also so controversial, that for centuries people would discuss their thoughts with one another and go on to write theories and documentaries backing up their ideas?
Is it possible that that is why the universality of Shakespeare is undeniable?