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Othello and Antigone

Othello and Antigone Essay Sample

Aug 6, 2020 at Literature Essays

Exploring the Leadership Models in Othello and Antigone

Literature has always been playing an unprecedentedly important role in the lives of the public. Literature gives insight into some of the most pressing social, environmental, economic, political, religious, and cultural issues of a particular epoch. Due to its didactic function, literature is capable of admonishing the audience. It happens, that some topics discussed in literary works still maintain their relevance after many years. In the following essay, the leadership models portrayed in the plays Antigone by Sophocles and Othello by William Shakespeare are explored. The leadership models, portrayed in the aforementioned dramatic writings, correspond with the respective sociocultural paradigms that the lives of societies in the works were ruled by. This essay demonstrates that Antigone can be regarded as a more successful and effective leader than Othello, because she is brave enough to do what she feels is right in spite of all the unreasonable social conventions that ruled the lives of her contemporaries.

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Examination of the Motif of Leadership in the Suggested Dramatic Works

The right to live in peace, self-governance and democracy, social justice, a war-free environment, unity in diversity, freedom of expression and association, patriotism, leadership and followership are only some of the major themes of the tragedy Antigone by Sophocles (Ademeso 108). An outright rejection of an unpleasant social order and a radical demand for social justice and equity represent both Antigones behavioral imperative and some of her primary goals.

The conflict in Antigone by Sophocles is external. That is to say, the playwright uses the conflict model known as person versus society. In addition to that, the conflict of the play can be defined as ethical, social, and cultural. The conflict in Antigone is ethical because a delicate matter and personal issues are concerned. There are four siblings, the heirs of King Oedipus: two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, and two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices (Sophocles). Eteocles and Polynices become enemies and both die in the battle of Thebes (Sophocles). After Eteocles and Polynices die, their uncle, Creon, ascends to the throne of Thebes (Sophocles). Eteocles earned himself an honorable burial as a defender of Thebes (Sophocles). The body of Polynices, on the other hand, is ordered to be kept the way it is by the new King (Sophocles). Creon rejects any requests for a funeral ceremony for Polynices (Sophocles). The punishment for burying the deceased prince Polynices and, therefore, breaking King Creaons order is death (Sophocles). Antigone is trying to bury Polynices no matter what it takes and by so doing, to make the wrong things right (Sophocles). The following points should be mentioned regarding the aforementioned facts. When analyzing a work of art, the period in which it is written may be considered the most enduring aspect. Undoubtedly, the social conventions determining the lives of the citizens of Thebes in the 5th century BC and their ways in general may seem antiquated to modern individuals. Even more so, the current generation may find the social order of that era grotesque and intolerable. There is no denying, Antigones humanistic views are progressive. According to the tragedy by Sophocles, Antigone is sentenced to be buried alive in a tomb, because she dared to have mercy on her brother, who everyone else considers to be the enemy, and break the law.

William Shakespeare is renowned as the greatest playwright and at the same time the greatest psychologist of the world (Etzold 63). The author has managed to gain insight into the very essence of human mind and soul. Duty, dignity, honor, bravery, friendship, and sacrifice are some of the primary motives Shakespeare portrayed in Othello, the Moor of Venice.

This play in particular gives insight into the inner workings of human mind and how treacherous and vicious, naive and uncomprehending, passionate and tough it can be. Othello is a stranger to Venetian society (Shakespeare). He is more of a warrior than a politician. Othello is loyal and thus he does not dare to question the loyalty of those who he regards among his friends. The suggested play by William Shakespeare portrays both inner and outer conflicts. Othello has a desperate, almost compulsive need for acceptance and approval. At the same time, the motives for Othellos attempts to do good, to conform and to belong with the citizens of Venice are quite clear. They can be explained by the laws of formal logic, decency, and humanity.

Othello is in conflict with himself as he has to choose who to trust and whose loyalty to question (Shakespeare). Othello can be considered a contradictory personality. He is an experienced warrior but, at the same time, it cannot be denied that Othello is a weak-minded and insecure person. At the same time, Othellos conflict is external as the ill will is imposed on him by the deceitful Iago. It is Iago who forces Othello to become a crazed, jealous murderer (Whitney and Packer 83). As a result, Othello and his beloved Desdemona are victimized (Shakespeare). ... the revelation of the wifes innocence constitutes the anagnorisis that resolves the conflict: this recognition leads Othello to tragic realization and suicide (Gray and Cox 188).

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Anagnorisis is a special term most widely used in dramatic works to denote a particular episode, a specific moment within a dramatic work itself when a main character comes to realize the real nature and motives of other character(s), their identity, and/or the real state of things. Othello is nearly demented by jealousy, fury, and grief that follows the murder and the discovery of Iagos real attitude towards Othello. Obviously, Othello has a certain sort of commitment issues. Commitment issues and feelings of insecurity force Othello to trust the wrong person, who is plotting to deceive and destroy him . Othello is furious when he learns that Desdemona is allegedly unfaithful to him. Othello commits a crime and becomes unhinged when he learns the details of the intrigue played by Iago. Still, Othello is capable of doing one more deed of a noble man. He pays for killing his loved one with his own life. Andrew Cecil Bradley reflects on how Othello can be perceived as a noble man and makes the following assertion: ... Othellos feelings and actions follow so inevitably from it and from the forces brought to bear on it, and his sufferings are so heart-rending, that he stirs ... in most readers a passion of mingled love and pity (774). This is a conclusive proof that good and bad features are combined within Othello, and even though he becomes a murderer, the good wins in him.

Shakespeare has managed to create a gallery of characters who lack any real ethical choice, and Othello, in his own way, is one of them (Gray and Cox 265). Developing the above statement further, Othello is one of those characters created by the playwright that can never change, can never anywise be different (Gray and Cox 265). The principle stated prior applies to Othello and confirms how morally corrupt is the society he lives in. In this respect, one cannot help but admit that classical literature, including mythology, philosophical, lyrical, epic, and dramatic works of the Ancient Greece and Rome, is full of the so-called sensitive content, namely, the portrayal of abominations, deviant behavior, and sordid details. In Antigone, the information of that kind is implicit. Taking all the foregoing facts into consideration, one can reach a conclusion that Antigone by Sophocles and Othello by William Shakespeare employ the principles of mimesis and catharsis.

As far as the leaderships styles of the protagonists of the respective suggested plays are concerned, it is essential to address the following aspects. Antigone is related to other tragedies by Sophocles, specifically, the ones that tell the story of King Oedipus family. Othello is, perhaps, one of the best-known tragedies by William Shakespeare. Both dramatic works imply a broad social context. Qualities of an effective leader and leadership as such are the key themes of both plays. Antigone proves herself to be a more effective leader since she is ready to stand for what is morally right. Othello, even though the plot against him was actually an artful intrigue played by one of those who he thought he could trust, could have been considered an effective leader if he chose not to give in to jealousy.

Renaissance and Liberal Education as the Markers of the Evolution of Thought

William Shakespeare proves to be a humanist. Assuming the statement noted above is correct, William Shakespeare can be counted among the proponents of the parenting model in which parents help their children to develop into intelligent, free-thinking, independent, and responsible individuals. In other words, William Shakespeare is believed to have dreamt of society in which people care for each other, respect each other, and aspire for knowledge and arts. Unwittingly, one of the worlds greatest playwrights asserts that fair, wise, and effective leaders appear can only in the aforementioned circumstances. The leaders of that kind will not rule peoples and communities, but rather guide them and guarantee them a peaceful and harmonious coexistence with other peoples and communities. In addition to that, it is assumed that the leaders of that kind will provide all the conditions necessary for the prosperity of their communities and peoples. All things considered, the values and virtues noted above are by all means compatible with the model of liberal education.

The purpose of liberal education is to teach the young how to live a meaningful, committed, and fulfilling life. At this point, it is essential to take a detour to call attention to the following aspects. One of the key principles that liberal education postulates implies that all life is meaningful and that nothing in the world is trivial or without purpose. However, disambiguating the notion of living a life of consciousness can be viewed as one of the objectives of liberal education as well. In a way, living a life of consequence has to do with the idea of living a meaningful life. Particularly, the notion of the life of consequences addresses such questions as how to embrace the destiny and act responsibly.

The education curriculum has been undergoing some significant changes for a while now, especially as the processes of specialization of academic disciplines and further sophistication and stratification thereof are taking place. All things considered, the purpose of liberal education includes but is not limited to training the students who, upon the completion of the training itself, will be capable of addressing complex problems at the highest level of sophistication (Wren, Riggio and Genovese 2). Only a person reared in that kind of an atmosphere is capable of handling the situations like the ones that Sophocles and Shakespeare portray in their famous writings.


Leadership is a noble mission that consists of guiding people through their most important habitual activities, such as work and domestic behaviour. Leaders and leadership have become central topics of a significant amount of literary works. With regard to this, Antigone by Sophocles and Othello by William Shakespeare can be viewed as some of the most vivid examples of how the subject of leadership can be incorporated in a work of art. The main characters of the respective dramatic pieces have different approaches to leadership, probably because the principal difference between the main characters consists in their underlying circumstances. All things considered, Antigone can be viewed as a more effective leader since she can tell the right from wrong due to her intuition, and, hence, she is not afraid to stand up for what she feels is morally good. Othellos conflict is of different quality, in addition to the aggravating circumstances of his case. The sense of guilt is strong in him. Still, in both cases, guilt, social conventions, and non-acceptance on part of their compatriots lead to tragic ends of the characters.

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