The Theme Of Death In Othello And A Doll House
The theme of death is present in many works of literature. It is given metaphors and cloaked with different meanings, yet it always represents an end. Every end signifies a new beginning, and every death gives rise to a new birth. Physical death “…is mere transformation, not destruction,” writes Ding Ming-Dao. “What dies is merely the identity, the identification of a collection of parts that we called a person. What dies is only our human meaning” (49). Figuratively speaking, death symbolizes a change, an interruption or cessation of regular routine. In this sense, death can be viewed as a more positive occurrence, because change leads to new experience, which, in turn, leads to knowledge and a better understanding of life. The plays Othello and A Doll House both encompass the theme of death. While the former deals with physical death, the latter depicts a change, a transformation of a period of time and a way of life.
Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragedy. The villain gains trust by appearing honest and, taking advantage of being undoubted, implants false ideas into Othello’s mind, causing him to believe in an illusion that portrays the opposite of reality. Shakespeare shows, by setting his plays in either antiquity or modernity, the evolution of human thought. His characters in antiquity acquire things through war and conquest, and are hasty in action and judgement. In modernity, however, the characters live in a regime that practices acquisition through trade and commerce. Logically, the characters in modernity are superior to the ones in antiquity. They prefer trade to war, and display logic through their actions. Because Shakespeare set his modern plays in Italy or England, Othello can be classified as a modern play. However, there are some elements of antiquity present in it,
such as Othello’s murderous act. Not being logical, Othello looks at the imposed circumstances only through Iago’s perspective, and is completely overtaken by the lies. Emilia’s opinion on the matter doesn’t make any difference, because his mind is already made up by the time he speaks to her. Thus, Othello’s ability to reason is not very well-developed. How strong was he really, when his faith in groundless implications created such a rift in his character during the temptation scene, that he ended up murdering his wife, and then, himself? Othello’s constant exposure to war had made him used to quick action and conquest. Thus, when confronted with a mental battle, his logical defense isn’t strong enough. Othello loses because sentiment beats his rationality.
The final scene in Othello is loaded with deaths. Every character that died in the play was a victim of Iago’s fraudulent plot. Iago slew Roderigo and Emilia to maintain the frame around his scheme. He killed to keep them silent, thinking that he could still retain his cover. Iago was foul, because he did harm to others only to satisfy his own appetite. His plot ended in the most unfortunate way, and it’s end didn’t justify the means, because he got caught.
Othello slew Desdemona for honor and justice. Although he was wrong, his action can be somewhat justified, as his purpose was understandable. Othello was already dead inside before he committed suicide. The difference in his character before and after the temptation scene is remarkable. Iago literally tore Othello apart and rebuilt him, instilling in him a whole new set of facts and ideas. Othello killed himself when he realized the truth, because his old self was already gone, not to mention the love of his life. His suicide followed the instant that he stepped out of delusion, and his death was an awakening,
because it shattered the misconception of truth. Othello’s death concluded the play, clearing up every lie that Iago had woven.
The theme of death in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House is shaped between the lines, and is symbolized through the stages Nora goes through. The play portrays Nora’s awakening to life’s lies, and her quest for freedom through individual integrity. She had always been under her husband’s wing and, only seeing what meets the eye, Nora felt happy and secure. When a conflict threatens to disrupt the regular routine in her household, she anxiously awaits for her husband to rescue her. However, she learns that everything she had perceived as truth is nothing but a misconception.
Nora fears change, as she thinks it is a threat to her well-being. As a result, she goes along with all of Torvald’s decisions, without asking any questions or posing any kind of doubts. Her life never went through any major changes. She was a doll in her father’s house, now she is a doll in her own house. She adjusts herself to Torvald to keep the balance in the house. When the conflict with Krogstad threatens her, she tries to do everything in her power to make things go back to the usual. She doesn’t tell Torvald her real thoughts, doesn’t show her worries through action, but merely hides everything inside of her. However, when the moment of clarity shows her what she had shut her eyes against, she realizes that she doesn’t need to hide her feelings any further. She learns that she had not loved Torvald, but had fallen in love with her image of him. With this realization, Nora “dies” in the sense that she is reborn with a new understanding of herself. Death is symbolized through the end of her ignorant days, her marriage to Torvald, and the life she had known. She is reborn through enlightenment, with a desire to discover and
understand herself, before anything else.
Whether physical or figurative, death adds a new dimension to Othello and A Doll House. Its presence gives the reader an eerie feeling and intensifies the depth of the plays. As readers, we wonder about the significance of death, and muse over what went on in the heads of Nora and, especially, Othello during the moment of truth. Nora believed in the illusion, whereas Othello was fooled into believing in it. They both went through a transformation, a step higher in consciousness, to a new beginning. Death is a link in the chain of life. Death as change or demise is often feared, because one doesn’t know what to expect. It is said that the best way to banish an enemy is to make it a friend. The concept of death, if understood, will unleash immortality.