Male Anxiety in Shakespeare's Plays

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Shakespeare’s plays share the quality of presenting the psychology of the characters as the primary driving force of the plot. In reading Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, it becomes clear that Shakespeare demonstrates a particular interest in instilling anxiety into the minds of his male characters, letting the action unfold as they attempt to deal with their mental distress and unease. In agreeing with the claim that this psychological attribute is Shakespeare’s main concern, it is important to consider the various ways male anxiety is represented and the great extent to which they appear in the plays. In Othello and Much Ado about Nothing, the male characters become anxious when an issue arises in regards to their status in society, their dignity and masculinity, or something that pertains to the faithfulness of their partner. These several reasons for anxiety underpin the majority of the events in both plots, and also drive the characters’ thoughts and actions, which in the nature of Shakespeare’s plays; ultimately results in an event as tragic as death. In order to examine the primary importance of male anxiety in Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, this essay will explore the psychology of the major characters of both plays and how their solicitous nature is a fundamental aspect of Shakespearian plays.

The anxiety associated with emptiness is unquestionably a resonating issue shared by various male characters in Othello. The audience is introduced immediately to this through Iago’s paradox, “I am not what I am,” (I.i.65) creating a sense of dramatic artifice, in which we are introduced to the elusive nature of his identity. Although Shakespeare does this to represent his character as a typical Machiavellian villain, Iago also represents the absence of a definite human personality in the play, and part of his anxiety is based on the lack of masculinity
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