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Chapter 5 - The Motives of Malignity

Shame and Masculinity in Othello and Macbeth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2021

James Gilligan
Affiliation:
New York University
David A.J. Richards
Affiliation:
NYU Law School
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Summary

Both Othello and Macbeth show how men can be shamed by other people into committing murder, and how guilt can motivate self-murder. Othello felt humiliated when Iago deceived him into believing Desdemona had made him into a “cuckold.” When he discovers she has actually been faithful, he feels so guilty he punishes himself by suicide – as many such murderers still do. Iago shames Othello into ruining himself because he felt Othello had shamed him. Lady Macbeth shames Macbeth into murdering Duncan, which finally leads to so many murders that she feels guilty enough to kill herself; and he feels so exhausted he longs for death as the only face-saving way to rest in peace – again, like many murderers we have seen.

Type
Chapter
Information
Holding a Mirror up to Nature
Shame, Guilt, and Violence in Shakespeare
, pp. 83 - 93
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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