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Jealousy and Mistaken Identity in Shakespeare

William Shakespeares life is somewhat of a mystery to scholars due to the fact that most information that is known is very scattered and sparse. No one knows the exact date of Shakespeares birth, but his baptism occurred on Wednesday, April 26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, a tanner, glover, dealer in grain, and town official of Stratford. His mother, Mary, was the daughter of Robert Arden, a prosperous gentleman-farmer. William Shakespeare and his family lived on Henley Street. A bond dated November 28, 1582 stated that William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway entered into a marriage contract.

The baptism of their eldest child, Susanna, took place in Stratford in May of 1583. Hamnet and Judith, their twins were christened in the same church one year and nine months later. In May of 1597, Shakespeare purchased a residential property in Stratford called New Place. Due to the fact that his father had suffered financial problems prior to this date, it is assumed that Shakespeare must have achieved success by himself. On March 25, 1616 William Shakespeare revised his last will and testament. He died on April 23, 1616.

There are certainly many things in which cholars cannot explain about the life of William Shakespeare, however the facts that do exist are enough to identify him as a real person. He was a writer who, for the last three hundred years, has continued to be a major influence on drama and poetry. Shakespeare wrote thirty-seven plays that are all very unique in their style and subject matter. The themes vary anywhere from extreme jealousy to silly humor. Two major themes that are apparent in a lot of Shakespeares works are mistaken identity and jealousy.

The idea of mistaken identity as a plot evice in comedies dates all the way back to the writers, Menander and Plautus, in the Greek and Roman times. Shakespeare borrowed that device and used it to further his plots in his comedies. His artistic use of mistaken identity is brilliantly used in many of his plays. In Shakespeares comedy, The Comedy of Errors, mistaken identity is the sole story line of the play. The idea of asking how one really knows who one is, is introduced, but the problems that will occur between appearance and reality are not totally realized.

As Shakespeare begins to write more about mistaken identity, is comic style using this ploy begins to develop more and more. In a very simple form, mistaken identity is shown in Twelfth Night. The twins are mistaken for each other and this brings about a comic conflict throughout the play. This simple form of the plot device is extended when it becomes known that one twin is actually a girl who would not normally be mistaken for her brother. This is a result because she has resorted to a disguise.

Viola disguising herself as Cessario is a beginning to the double meanings throughout the dialogue that Shakespeare uses as comedy within the playing of the words. When her twin brother, Sebastian, arrives her passive nature is mistaken to be his and he is married to Olivia who thinks he is his disguised sister. As an audience member, part of the fun of mistaken identity is the sole enjoyment of trying to keep who is who straight and knowing something that the actors do not. Disguise is one of Shakespeares favorite devices, found in many of his works.

Through it he alters the identity of an individual, which creates an elevated irony, a developed theme, and an enhanced comic element to the story. In As You Like It, Shakespeare, by having characters in disguise, creates an outlet for new ironies and comic twists throughout the work. The shepherdess who is in love with the “shepherd” Ganymede who is really a girl (Rosalind) is one of the comic twists, as well as Orlando sharing feelings of love to Ganymede who is really Orlandos love Rosalind in disguise. Once again the hidden and mistaken identity constructs this plot and furthers its comedy.

The entire purpose of mistaken identity can only be accomplished when a disguise is shown in the way to say and experience things in the ne identity that can only be accomplished by the altar identity: this is what composes the comedy within the words. For example, in Measure For Measure, the Duke uses disguise and mistaken identity to reveal the truth about Angelo, while simultaneously providing comic moments when Lucio speaks of the Duke to the Duke unaware of his true identity. Another re-occurring theme throughout Shakespeares plays is jealousy. Perhaps the most outstanding form appears in Othello.

It is a classic story of boy meets girl and the jealous lover, only with an extremely tragic ending. Othello and Desdemona are in love with each other. Iago, the antagonist, wants Desdemona for himself and is extremely jealous of Othello. He plots a scheme to make Othello believe that Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. Without even asking Desdemona if it is true or not, Othello kills her by smothering her. Then, after becoming cognizant of the truth, he kills himself. Jealousy is a hard subject to write and read about because it is an emotion of terror, meaning that it can be extremely dangerous in any situation.

Jealousy can produce tragic denouements. Iago says in the play, “Oh beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. ” Perhaps the theme of Othello is that it is wise to find out the truth before jumping to conclusions because jealousy can eat away your heart. The theme of jealousy throughout Shakespeares plays is a great plot device because it is a very universal emotion, whereas mistaken identity is exactly the opposite; it is something we can look at and know that it would never happen, therefore we laugh. Both devices are efficient and produce extremely different reactions.

In A Midsummer Nights Dream the jealousy is very differently portrayed than it is in Othello. Hermia and Lysander are in love, however Demetrius is in love with Hermia as well. Helena is in love with Demetrius and very admirable of Hermia. “O, teach me how you look and with what art you sway the motion of Demetrius heart. ” The jealousy in this play is in its simplest form. Helena is jealous of the love that Demetrius has for Hermia and wants his attention turned toward her. This type of jealousy is not even close to the extreme it was in Othello, however it produces the same reaction that it is a universal emotion.

Helenas jealousy is more of an admiration, whereas Othello and Iagos jealousy is more of a desperation. Shakespeares use of the two literary devices, mistaken identity and jealousy, are only a suggestion of everything else he wrote about in his literature. They are elements within his works that reoccur and help in furthering the plot within the story. William Shakespeare wrote with many different approaches and about many different subjects. The devices he used within his literature are only an addition to the words Shakespeare wrote so beautifully.

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