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Shakespeare and the Tragedy: Hamlet and Othello

             The dramatic tragedy as we know it draws its origins from ancient Greece. These classic plays followed a strict and consistent structure, almost universally occurring in one location over the course of one day, and revolving around one major plot. These Greek dramas almost universally portrayed the downfall of a hero or character of legend and high stature. Aristotle defined the classic tragedy as a story centered about the hero's noble and moral struggle against fate. To the Greeks, fate would always overpower will and in the end the characters would surrender to their destinies. These philosophies can be seen in tragedies such as Sophocles' Oedipus Rex where it would be the hero's destiny to be overcome and brought down by his own internal flaws.
             Shakespeare was a prolific writer and among his works exist ten tragedies, each of which are governed by varying levels of ancient Greek and contemporary Christian values and themes. Despite this fact there is always one major theme which appears too occur in all tragedies Shakespearean or otherwise; that is there exists a constant struggle for control between the forces of destiny and free will which brings about the hero's destruction.
             Shakespeare's tragedies generally have a certain structure in common. Each one is segmented into five acts, each of which are representative of the same general sequence of plot development. Act I serves as an introduction to the situation and the characters. Act II is a further development and continuation of the plot. Act III is the climax that serves to solidify and give direction towards the eventual outcome. Act IV is a sort of transition and prelude to Act V in which the final crisis occurs and the play is resolved. .
             Two of Shakespeare's most widely recognized tragedies are Hamlet and Othello. Both of these plays have in common the same general Shakespearean format described above. As we will see, Hamlet and Othello share many other themes in common along with a few notable differences in theme and structure as well.

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