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[REQUEST] Examination of the Concept of Madness

Permanent Linkby Rebeca Thomson on Fri May 31, 2019 10:48 am

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Examination of the Concept of Madness (Based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost, William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi)
While reflecting upon the nature of a character of a literary piece, scholars tend to distinguish between character and characterization. The notion of character implies referring to character’s traits, both physical and mental. Characterization, in its turn, embraces author’s attitude towards a character, character’s mode of thinking, as well as character’s behavioral and living patterns as such. But most importantly, characterization accounts for characters’ opinions about each other, their actions on each other and in response to the events of a literary piece itself. Both character and characterization should be taken into account while contemplating the essence of insanity/madness in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, William Shakespeare’s Othello, and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.
Othello is a strong leader and experienced warrior. At the same time, he is an enigmatic person. Othello’s insanity is a result of a string of artful intrigues played by his courtier, Iago, and Iago’s associate Roderigo. As a result of a treacherous plot hatched by Iago, Othello murders his wife, Desdemona, which, in its turn, leads to Othello’s moral corruption and death. Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice is a story of cuckoldry/marital infidelity by no means. The play by William Shakespeare is a story of a man who above all else desires to find a place where he truly belongs. Even though Othello holds a high-ranking position in the society of Venice, he feels like a stranger there. Othello is a victim of treason, but most importantly, he is a victim of his own insecurities. Hence, Othello can be characterized as a character of great ambiguity.
I assume that the following quote indicates the sickness of jealousy that begins to grow within Othello:
… I had rather be a toad,
And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For others’ uses
Going by the quote, it is clear that Othello is not ready yet to apply the case’s final solution. Othello’s ambition lies in not being an established person and respected statesman. What Othello desires above all is being a loving and loved husband. The foregoing premise is supported by the lines from the very same Othello’s soliloquy: “… Desdemona comes: // If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! — // I'll not believe’t”. However, taking this whole soliloquy into consideration, the excerpt can be regarded as a portent – the omen of tragic events that may follow.
Clearly, Othello is obsessed and overwhelmed. Blinded by jealousy, Othello is incapable of discerning the plot and succumbs to anxiety and violence. As a result, he and his beloved Desdemona are victimized. Othello’s last soliloquy testifies that his insanity is implicit and is of noble value. He was a statesman who ruled his land with wisdom, reason, dignity, and sense of duty. Othello admits his own moral corruption. But most importantly, Othello realizes that his only enemy is he himself. Othello presumes that the only option for him to die with dignity is committing suicide, which he does. All in all, Othello, the Moor of Venice is a story of loss of identity and examination of darker side of human soul. Furthermore, madness in Shakespeare’s work can be regarded as a synonym of insecurity.
Even though the loss of sanity depicted in John Milton’s Paradise Lost has very much in common with the case scenario described by William Shakespeare, the two are characterized by not a small amount of peculiar features. In Milton’s poem, madness is represented by Satan mostly. It is implicit, pretty much the same as in Othello’s case. However, the damage Satan’s insanity inflicts leads to irreversible consequences by no means. The forgoing premises can be proved by the fact that even though mankind is banished from Paradise, good forces win.
Besides, there is a certain degree of controversy characteristic of John Milton’s poem and the nature of poem’s characters. The controversy here consists in a fact that the function of Satan as a character of the poem is often misinterpreted. Some researchers are inclined to think that Satan can be regarded as the poem’s protagonist. Known as a progenitor of evil, the image of the fallen angel is antagonistic by nature. William Blake, the godfather of gothic poetry and one of the most renowned gothic poets, argues that the only plausible explanation why the image of Satan in Milton’s poem is romanticized is the following. Even though John Milton did not admit it himself, he sympathized with the fallen angels of Pandemonium. Satan rebelled against the God’s will, and thus, fell into disgrace. Satan intends to interfere with God’s plans whatever it takes.
Referring to the classical clerical motives of the Old Testament, John Milton in his poem Paradise Lost argues how treacherous evil is. The author pays close attention to Satan’s change of physical form. Satan was once an angel and left Heaven in the form of a comet. Then he took the form of a cherub, then of a cormorant, of a toad, and finally he appears in the Garden of Eden as a snake. Symbolically, Satan’s change of form in Milton’s poem implied the antagonist’s decadence physically and mentally. In this respect, it is possible to assume that whatever the form evil takes, people should make effort to keep evil at bay. By and large, Satan’s insanity in Milton’s poem is synonymous to obsession.
As far as John Webster’s tragedy The Duchess of Malfi is concerned, it is important to admit the following. Above all else, madness as depicted by John Webster is of different value if compared to that illustrated by William Shakespeare and John Milton. Madness in Webster’s tragedy is represented mainly by Ferdinand, a twin brother to the Duchess herself and the Cardinal. Ferdinand is medicated from lycanthropy. He is experiencing acute episodes of outbursts of rage. Ferdinand is mainly furious and irrational. At the same time, he and his brother Cardinal, after their sister is imprisoned, sent charlatans of all stripes to their sister to derange her. For every action there is a reaction. Thus, it happens so that both Cardinal and Ferdinand are destroyed by their own demons incarnated in the play’s another character, Bosola. All things considered, perverted perception and deviant behaviors are characteristics of the characters representing madness in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Hence, the madness as depicted in the play resembles the nature of evil itself.
Perversion and deviation are an integral part of human nature. What really matters in this respect is whether a person is capable of restraining him or herself or not. William Shakespeare, John Milton, and John Webster are counted among the authors who addressed the concept of insanity in their works. William Shakespeare’s model of insanity depicted in the tragedy Othello, the Moor of Venice is based on the idea of protagonist’s insecurity. John Milton’s conception of madness reflected in the poem Paradise Lost implies a great deal of obsession and desire to do evil. John Webster’s idea of insanity as depicted in the tragedy The Duchess of Malfi accords with the pure anger, wrath, and hatred. Either implicit/latent or explicit/obvious, insanity leads to destruction, corruption, decay, and death. Presumably, the aftermaths of insanity are tragic because the nature of madness as such leaves no room for hope.
Rebeca Thomson is a talented person and a professional freelance writer at essayelites. She likes to create new thoughts and depict them on the paper.

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