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Characterization

The means by which writers present and reveal character. Although techniques of
characterization are complex, writers typically reveal characters through their speech,
dress, manner, and actions. Readers come to understand the character Miss Emily in
Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily" through what she says, how she lives, and what
she does.

Comic relief
The use of a comic scene to interrupt a succession of intensely tragic dramatic
moments. The comedy of scenes offering comic relief typically parallels the tragic
action that the scenes interrupt. Comic relief is lacking in Greek tragedy, but occurs
regularly in Shakespeare's tragedies. One example is the opening scene of Act V of
Hamlet, in which a gravedigger banters with Hamlet.

Conflict
A struggle between opposing forces in a story or play, usually resolved by the end of
the work. The conflict may occur within a character as well as between characters.
Lady Gregory's one-act play The Rising of the Moon exemplifies both types of
conflict as the Policeman wrestles with his conscience in an inner conflict and
confronts an antagonist in the person of the ballad singer.

Denouement
The resolution of the plot of a literary work. The denouement of Hamlet takes place
after the catastrophe, with the stage littered with corpses. During the denouement
Fortinbras makes an entrance and a speech, and Horatio speaks his sweet lines in
praise of Hamlet.

Falling action
In the plot of a story or play, the action following the climax of the work that moves it
towards its denouement or resolution. The falling action of Othello begins after
Othello realizes that Iago is responsible for plotting against him by spurring him on to
murder his wife, Desdemona.

Tragic flaw or Hamartia


A weakness or limitation of character, resulting in the fall of the tragic hero.
e.g. Hamartia in OTHELLO
The Hamartias of Othello In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, the hero,
Othello, is plagued by his many hamartias. Termed by Aristotle around 330 B.C.,
hamartia is a tragic hero’s “error or transgression or his flaw or weakness of
character.” (p.1296) Othello’s hamartias include jealousy, a blind, unrealistic love for
Desdemona, trusting others too easily, and his unrealized ability to deceive himself.
These flaws, along with the help of Iago, cause Othello to loose everything he has
including his life. At first look at Othello, he shows no signs of jealousy and even
entrusts his wife to Iago saying, “To his conveyance I assign my wife.” (1.3.286)
Othello also the great self control that is expected from someone who has been a
warrior since he was seven years old as mentioned by, “for since these arms of mind
has seven years pith … they have used their dearest action in the tented field.”(1.3.83-
85) Iago begins to break down this self-control by talking of jealousy: IAGO. O,
beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat
it feeds on. (3.3.178-179) Although the play shows no indication of physical
aggression by Othello, one can assume from the following speech there is some
physical confrontation between Othello, and Iago: OTHELLO. Villain, be sure thou
prove my love a whore! Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof, Or, by the worth of
mine external soul, Thou hadst been better have been born a dog Than answer my
waked wrath! (3.3.375-379) Others also notice Othello’s jealous loss of self-control.
In Act III Scene V Othello goes do Desdemona to demand she show him a
handkerchief he gave to her. When she cannot produce the handkerchief Othello gets
furious and storms out of the room. After his exit, Emilia says, “Is not this man
jealous?” Othello, being a military man, sees himself as a man who judges by the fact.
He believes only what he sees, or what his most trusted ensign, Iago, reports to him.
Having Iago report the goings on between Desdemona and Cassio makes it even
easier for Iago to poison Othello’s mind with thoughts of jealousy. Even though Iago
hinted to Othello about Desdemona’s infidelity, Othello still thought himself a man
who was not to be self-deceived: OTHELLO. I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt,
prove; And on the proof, there is no more but this – Away at once with love or
jealousy. (3.3.204-206) This is, of course, ironic because as Othello later finds out, it
is not easy to make a choice between love and jealousy. Othello being the kind of
leader who judges by facts tells Iago to “Give me the ocular proof,” (3.3.376) of his
wife’s infidelity. Othello has another Hamartia in that he has a blind, unrealistic love
for his wife, Desdemona. He is a man who loved excessively but “loved not wisely
…” (5.2.554). Throughout the play Othello professes his love to Desdemona. One
such event is when Othello says, “O my soul’s joy! / If after every tempest come such
calms.” (2.1.177-178) This passage shows that Othello is pleased and calmed by his
wife and his love for his wife. Just a few lines later Othello exults, “If it were now to
die, / ‘Twere now to be most happy …” (2.1.182-183) showing that if he were to die
now his soul would be happy. Then again in Act III Scene III, obviously the most
important scene in the play, Othello lets Desdemona know that “I will deny thee
nothing.” (3.3.91) By this Othello is letting Desdemona know that there is nothing he
wouldn’t do for her. Being such a becalmed man due to his marriage to Desdemona,
Othello, in the garden of the citadel, yells to Desdemona from a distance: OTHELLO.
Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul But I do love thee! And when I love thee
not, Chaos is come again. (3.3.98-100) This passage gives some foreshadowing
because chaos does come again into Othello’s life. At the end of the play when
Othello does kill Desdemona, and he learns the truth about her, he says, “I kissed thee
ere I killed the. No way but this, / Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.” (5.2.369-370)
He shows everyone that he truly did love his wife even in death. The last, but not the
least important, hamartia that Othello has is trusting others too easily, and not being
able to trust the right person. Othello has a terrible time trying to choose whether to
believe Iago and his wife, Desdemona. Othello needs to trust his wife even to the
point that he cries out, “If she be false, O, the heaven mocks itself! / I’ll not believe
‘t”(3.3.278-279) Othello has a hard time trusting anyone other than military men
because he knows “little of this great world…more than pertains to feats of broils and
battle.” (1.3.88-89) The one thing that seems certain to him is Iago’s friendship: “O
brave Iago, honest and just.” (5.1.32) In the end, Othello trusts Iago, his ensign, who
has been with him in war which is a bad decision because later he finds out that
everything he thought true was just a lot of lies put together by Iago. Hamartias, flaws
of the tragic hero, are an essential part of tragedies. Othello, plagued by hamartias, is
doomed from the beginning of the play. His flaws of self-deception, blind love,
jealousy, and trusting others too easily are what eventually kill him and his wife. Even
though these flaws were brought to life with the aide of Iago, it truly is Othello who is
at fault for loosing everything he had even his life.

Unities
The idea that a play should be limited to a specific time, place, and story line. The
events of the plot should occur within a twenty-four hour period, should occur within
a give geographic locale, and should tell a single story. Aristotle argued that
Sophocles' Oedipus the King was the perfect play for embodying the unities.

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