I’ve always been a fan of William Shakespeare, who really is very good in spite of all the people who say he really is very good (unlike, for example, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who really is pretty mediocre in spite of all the people who say he really is very good).
I can’t help but think, though, that the characters Hamlet and Othello were not tragic figures so much as people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both plays would be quite different if those two characters merely switched places.
See, the deal with Hamlet is that he overthinks everything, whereas the deal with Othello is that he’s rash and quick to judgement. Hamlet would never for even half a second have been fooled by Iago, whereas Othello would never for even half a second put up with his mom shagging his dad’s murderer.
So. What would the plays look like if we swapped them around?
Othello Act III, Scene iii
IAGO: I do not like the office:
But, sith I am enter’d in this cause so far,
Prick’d to’t by foolish honesty and love,
I will go on. I lay with Cassio lately;
And, being troubled with a raging tooth,
I could not sleep.
There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
That in their sleeps will mutter their affairs:
One of this kind is Cassio:
In sleep I heard him say ‘Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves;’
And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
Cry ‘O sweet creature!’ and then kiss me hard,
As if he pluck’d up kisses by the roots
That grew upon my lips: then laid his leg
Over my thigh, and sigh’d, and kiss’d; and then
Cried ‘Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!’
HAMLET: You know, you actually had me going there for a minute. But seriously, you are so full of shit. See, I actually talked to Cassio after that deal in the garden, and you know what? I totally don’t believe you.
DESDEMONA: Dude, you rock.
Hamlet is even shorter after we do the swap.
HAMLET Act I, Scene ii
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Good Othello, cast thy nighted colour off,1
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
OTHELLO: Look, Mom. Look…er, Dad. This is ridiculous. Sorry, but I’m afraid I have to cut your heads off now.
(OTHELLO draws his sword, cuts off GERTRUDE’S HEAD and CLAUDIUS’ HEAD.)
THE GHOST: Dude, you rock.
1 This line becomes even funnier when you consider that Othello is a Moor.