GCSE English- Comparing Othello and The Laboratory Watch
Both Shakespeare and Browning create a villain who plots their actions carefully, manipulate others into following through with their plans and delight in the suffering they will cause. In both the poem and the play, the villains’ actions are fuelled by jealousy: their conversations show them obsessed over their victims and desired outcome.
The speaker in ‘The Laboratory’ is presented as a villain from the start of the poem. The speaker views the apothecary as a ‘devil’s smithy’ which suggests to the reader that she is in an evil place or there for an evil purpose. When the speaker speaks of ‘poison’ her mood lifts dramatically, describing the taste and colour of the vial’s contents as ‘exquisite’ and ‘sweet’ suggesting that she has a distorted view of reality. The phrase ‘grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste’ shows the speaker’s eagerness for the pharmacist at the apothecary to make the poison. The fact that she views the poison as treasure rather than something dangerous suggest that she is a psychopath. The way that the speaker obsesses over ‘him’ and ‘her’ reads to the reader that her evil actions were powered by jealousy. When speaking of these two together, the speaker sounds paranoid and angry. ‘They know that I know’ hints that she has thought of them frequently. She exudes paranoia when she says ‘While they laugh, laugh at me’ and shows again that she has given them as a couple great thought.
Another character that is presented as a villain is Iago in ‘Othello’. One of the first things that we hear from Iago is his ‘price’ and how he believes that he is ‘worth no worse a place’ referring to the lieutenant title that Othello had given Cassio. This tells the reader that Iago thinks very highly of himself, believing that he deserves a higher position and is envious of those above him. Iago manipulates almost everyone he knows into either doing what he wants or reacting in a certain way. He manipulates Rodrigo by challenging him to ‘come, be a man!’ which demonstrates his understanding of other characters and that he knows how to provoke to get others to do as he wishes. When he speaks of Othello as ‘The Moor’ and says that he will be led by those nose like an ‘ass’, he implies that he thinks very little of Othello and his trusting demeanour.
However one character in “Othello” that isn't presented as a villain is Othello himself. Like all of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, at the start of the play he is introduced as a trustworthy, hardworking, honest and highly thought of member of society after winning the war of turks, and with Iago's manipulation and his own pride becomes a villain. His colour did cause some members of society take a disliking to him which would not have shocked a shakespearean audience because during that era there was still a racial inequality between white and coloured people. After Iago planted the thought of Desdemona being unfaithful with Cassio, Othello's trust in Iago makes him ponder the notion more than if a less valued friend (or what Othello believes to be a friend). The speaker in ‘The Laboratory’ wishes to scar the woman, removing her beauty ‘so that proof remain’ whilst Othello does not wish to ‘shed her blood; not scar that whiter skin of hers than snow’ showing his remaining affection for her.
Taking into account their motivation, their actions and their emotional response towards what they do, I believe that the worst villain out of all is Iago. Iago plans his actions taking into account his stance with his victims; such as how highly Othello thinks of him therefore making his accusation of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness mean more than if an unfamiliar face informed him. The speaker in The Laboratory, at the time of her actions, is still fueled by the feeling of replacement and desire for revenge.