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Destruction is defined as ‘Causing great negative and irreparable harm or damage.’1 But then on the other hand love is defined as ‘a strong positive emotion of regard and affection’. 2 Based on just the definition of both words the phrase ‘destructive love’ is an oxymoron; how can love possibly be destructive as its negative and love is defined to be ‘ a positive emotion’; since both words contradict each other, if love becomes destructive was it real love to begin with?
Arguably, in Shakespeare and Sylvia Plath destructive love is portrayed to be a product caused directly by external influences more than internal influences. This can be argued in ‘Othello’ when Iago manages to manipulate Othello’s once secure trust of his wife. Likewise in ‘Romeo & Juliet ‘arguably the external influence of their family’s long standing feud ultimately destroys their love. In contrast Sylvia Plath’s poems show a destructive aspect of maternal and paternal love, in poems such as ‘Daddy’, ‘Morning Song’ and ‘You’re’. The way in which all three texts were written, the setting and the time period contribute to the diverse presentation of destructive love. For example in Othello, published in 1603 and similarly in Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare suggests that the essence of trust, jealously and social standings play a vital role in the outcome of love. However contrastingly, Sylvia Plath’s poems written between 1956 and 1963 show a more personal presentation of destructive love; for example, the speaker in ‘Daddy’ reveals aspects of Plath’s relationship between her and her father.
In all three texts, the writers explore the impact of a parental relationship having an impact on destructive love; In Plath’s ‘Collected Poems’ she explores the influence of parental love on her own relationship and becoming a mother herself. In ‘Morning Song’ she portrays an affectionate parental love between a mother and a child. The beginning of the poem starts with ‘Love set you going like a fat gold watch’ The opening line has a combination of personification, metaphors and a simile; initially the use of love being ‘set’ portrays a more negative response to the reader as love cannot be set which suggests that the parental love shown has to be simulated. The birth of the child is equated to ‘gold’, the use of ‘gold’ could mean the child is hard to love as it’s hard and cold to touch or else it could suggest that the child is precious and is valued in the eyes of the parents. Plath uses a collective pronoun ‘our’ to highlight that it is the participation of the parents in the conception of the baby and that it is the responsibility of both the mother and father to value and look after the child when it is born. The first stanza is in the past tense and the rest of the poem is in the present tense, Plath does this to relate that when ‘love’ is supposed to be there initially it is all in the past and once the baby is born the love between the mother and father changes as the father and his love is never mentioned in the present tense highlighting how parental love could be effectively destructive.
In addition, Plath uses the speaker who has just given birth to begin to feel less attached to its child, ‘Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow/ effacement at the wind’s hand.’ The child is a ‘mirror’ image of the mother, but she wants this image to be permanent and knows that she can’t hold onto this for long, the speaker realises that the child will gradually begin to establish independent personhood consequently feels less expressively attached to the child which then causes a destructive love between the mother and child. The simile, ‘clear vowels rise like balloons’ suggests the feeling of the baby growing up and distancing away both physically as they grow older but also in terms of her parental love towards the baby. Throughout the poem Plath uses the speaker to employ a variety of downhearted images including a statue-like description of her child and a comparison of motherhood to the ‘slow effacement’ of a cloud to show the speakers parental love. The use of ‘new statue’ emphasizes that the child has no feelings and that the speaker cannot give any love towards it due to it being lifeless. This point closely links back to the description of the term ‘gold’ earlier which could’ve either meant the baby was being described as precious or a cold, hard, unloving object as such.
The poem ‘Daddy’ by Plath is a cathartic text which reveals the nature of her parental relationship with her father. As the poem seems to highlight aspects of Plath’s life we can assume that it is about Plath herself. The basis of this poem is so that Plath can eradicate herself of these over-whelming emotions as she feels abandoned by her father after his death suggesting a parental destructive love influenced in her poetry. Plath uses the poem ‘Daddy’ to symbolise the ‘Nazi’ in the poem to be her father because he is German. The ‘Jew’ being her which accordingly relates back to her own personal life experiences as she states ‘Daddy, I have to kill you’ suggesting that she has to eradicate his control that he has over her. There are strong metaphors conveyed throughout the poem as ‘feet’ and ‘shoes’ are constantly being referred back to; ‘Any more, black shoe’. The shoe could represent a protector over the foot, where the shoe could be a metaphor for her father and the foot being the speaker.. The adjective ‘black’ links to a different interpretation because it suggests the idea of the foot being trapped and the colour associates to death which means due to the idea of suffocating the ‘foot’ could cause a destructive parental love.
In the poem ‘You’re’, Plath again shows parental love but addresses an implied listener; it’s in the form of a dramatic monologue which makes the reader understand the she is addressing her unborn child. There are 9 lines in each stanza which links back to the 9 month gestation period suggesting the poem is about parental love. The title, ‘You’re’ is the bringing together of two words which could link back to the poem and the love between a mother and child. Destructive love about this??
In contrast to Plath’s personal poetry Shakespeare dramatizes the relationship between father and daughter to explore issues of gender and social status. In Othello destructive love is directly influenced by external factors such as Desdemona’s father, ‘Brabantio’ as he is against their love and marriage. The reason why her father is against it is influenced by the attitudes of the Elizabethan era; where witchcraft was common and consequently he accuses Othello of witchcraft: “Thou has practic’d on her with foul charms,/Abus’d her delicate youth with drugs or minerals”. At the time during the Elizabethan era, blacks were considered to be barbarians, and murderous heathens. It is a very rare thing that a black man would be able to obtain the rank of general in a predominantly Caucasian army. It caused quite a bit of jealousy among the other officers serving under Othello. 3 However, Desdemona’s father, Brabantio and the mainstream of Venetians found it intolerable for Desdemona, a white woman of high class to marry a black man. Trifling acceptance was given to Othello because of his headship as the moor. Brabantio stated that Othello had a ‘sooty bosom’, a ‘foul thief’ and a marriage ‘Against all rules of nature’. This is evidence to prove his racism towards him that just because ‘he hast thou stow’d’ his daughter he does not like him suggesting Brabantio being a parental influence to their destructive love.
Desdemona says she has a ‘divided duty’ toward Othello and as her father says ‘he would rather of adopt’ due to him being embarrassed she has fallen in love with a ‘black’ moor. ‘Divided duty’ highlights the fact that during the Elizabethan period, women had a duty towards men; they had to look after and be obedient towards them. Also, status played an important role within society as evidently portrayed by Brabantio suggesting how he would have rather adopted after he finds out Desdemona has fallen in love with Othello which literally means he would disown his own daughter due to her loving Othello. Even after calling Othello a ‘foul thief’ suggests further how people within society cause love to be pressurised; giving a bad image to the Protagonist which in this case is Othello leading him to destruction by contributing influences and attitudes of characters within the play.
In Romeo & Juliet to an extent, parental love can be seen as the main cause of their destructive love; the Capulets and Montagues bring about destruction in the love between ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Escalus, Prince of Verona says ‘See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heavens find means to kill your joys with love’. The hate of the two families resulted in the deaths of the two lovers. Due to both families not ending their fuel eventually results in them paying a price; the love of Romeo and Juliet to eventually end in destructive love and a tragedy.
However, parental love in Romeo & Juliet could arguably just be a small factor contributing to the destructive love because from the very commencement of the play, fate is continuously referred to by Shakespeare. Opening with the prologue where the audience are told, “A pair of star crossed lovers take their life” Shakespeare mentions that Romeo and Juliet were meant to decease together only because it is their destiny; ‘death mark’d’ means that their fate will be tragic. Consequently this is what fate had intentionally mapped out for their lives, as it was ‘crossed’ through the stars. As a result the audience recognises that the tragic death of Romeo and Juliet was inevitable. Throughout the play Shakespeare puts the audience in a supreme, god-like position from the start encouraging them to think about fate and to what extent our actions are free. During the Elizabethan era this ideology of was not something new; that destiny overrides and if it’s meant to happen in life it will. The people during the Elizabeathen era were mainly protestant and followed the Bible; the idea of fate is written in the Bible in Jeremiah 1:5. It says ‘ before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’. Suggesting that god has set their paths before they were born suggesting that the tragedy in Romeo and Juliet was going to ultimately be a destructive love since it is fate.
The friar responds to Juliet just after she awakes in Act 5 Scene 2 by saying ‘A greater power than we can contradict Hath thwarted our intents: come, come away.’ This suggests that he has stated to her that fortune has not endorsed them to be, as fate even stopped him getting there on time. Shakespeare uses Fate to influence the audience to consider how the path of love in the play and is the base of the plot. Having one slight change in the way fate had acted towards Romeo & Juliet’s love would have totally changed the outcome of their destructive love.
In Othello Shakespeare also uses the theme of ‘Fate’ to portray a destructive love; Throughout the entire play fate travels with Iago; Emilia is killed by Iago after she has realised that he has manipulated everyone and talks about his dishonesty in front of him to Othello. Othello commits suicide after he realised that Desdemona was in fact innocent and he murdered his love for no reason. fate, evidence???
Throughout the duration of the play, Othello’s relationship changes immensely due to the manipulation of the external influence Iago. This change can be seen by the audience; the malicious attempt in tricking his wife about the ‘handkerchief’ as she is not able to produce is makes Othello’s seed of jealously grow. When Othello confronts Desdemona about the handkerchief he uses words with equivocal meanings. While he is suggesting one thing, Desdemona thinks he is talking about something else. “This argues fruitfulness and liberal heart. Hot, hot, and moist.’ In this case, Desdemona turn a blind eye not thinking much of his statement. Othello however, is referring to her unlawful, lecherous nature as he begins to speak harshly to Desdemona as he questions the whereabouts of the special handkerchief. ‘It is words that shakes me thus. Pish! Noses, ears, and lips. Is’t possible? ‘ Confess? Handkerchief? Oh devil!”. The rhetorical question which Shakespeare uses makes it seem as though Desdemona cannot have a word in, that she has to be obedient and listen as Othello has already made up his mind in what hes going to do which adds to the fact that due to this scene being a dramatic monologue Shakespeare allows the audience to have an insight into the fate of this couple and what is going to lead as being a destructive love due to the external influence being Iago.
The use of ‘Oh devil’ links back to the Elizabethan era where people believed in witchcraft and thus having an influence on the way in which the play was seen. In this dramatic monologue, the use of exclamations, questions and repetition of words link to the tension in this scene; Othello clearly has fallen in Iago’s trap of manipulation of how Cassio was supposedly boasting about sleeping with Desdemona keeping in mind that the audience knows the truth of Iago and his plot due to his soliloquy explicitly highlighting that he will “put the Moor/ At least into a jealousy so strong/ That judgment cannot cure’. This dramatic monologue indicates and brings about tension in the audience, that Othello’s destructive path of his love was predetermined as we can see what Othello is actually thinking and the audience can feel a sense that this is Othello’s fate; to fall in his trap.
On the contrary, Possessiveness over loved ones can also cause or lead to destructive love. Othello’s marriage to Desdemona displays that while one can truly love a person, the requirement for human control can be destructive to a relationship. Othello faces a dilemma from the very beginning because of his marriage. ‘Eldred Jones’ has concurred stating that ‘Othello made himself available to public criticism and assaults on his character by marrying a young white girl’.5 This suggests that jealously is also another factor; Rodrigo is a main cause of this as he also is in love with Desdemona and due to Othello marrying this ‘young white girl’ he is opening himself up for an even bigger fall as he becomes jealous of Othello.
Furthermore, the pair’s constant skirmish over power and control makes them vulnerable to destruction of their contentment. Even so, Othello pursues to have complete control over his wife, Desdemona. Othello claims this as he says, ‘O curse of marriage that we can call these delicate creatures our and not their appetites.’ This highlights the fact that he believes ‘marriage’ should enable him to control her. During the period of time when the play was written women were portrayed to be men’s possessions; the first Senator, wishing Othello well when he gets married to Desdemona says ‘use Desdemona well’. The word ‘use’ seems to connote the phrase ‘look after’, but also supports the Venetian expectation of women – which they are to bow to the wills of their husbands who may utilise them as they wish.
In Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare also represents the idea of ‘agreed marriages’ through the actions of Capulet, as they treat Juliet like they have ownership over her as they want her to marry a wealthy man named Paris. Shakespeare portrays Romeo to be a good individual as he shows Romeo treating Juliet as an equal and occasionally as a superior. Thus showing the different attitudes to what Shakespeare has portrayed in Othello, as the Capulet’s are possessive over Juliet rather than it typically being Romeo. At the beginning of the play Shakespeare shows the audience that Capulet seems to be very possessive over Juliet, this is revealed when he states ‘My child is yet a stranger to the world’. The term ‘my’ is a first person pronoun that exemplifies the fact that Juliet is Capulet’s ‘possession’, that he does not want her to be taken away from him. This also reminds us of the audience during the Shakespearean time those children more specifically women are the properties of their father’s until after marriage. It was their father’s responsibility to choose when and whom their daughter would marry as Capulet says ‘woo her gentle Paris, get her heart’ showing he wants Paris to marry his daughter Juliet. The effect of the family’s possessiveness on Juliet builds up the pressure on her; Capulet mentions ‘If she agreed within her scope of choice, there lies my consent.’ That he would still be there for her whatever choice she was to make but he begins to pressurise her further as he begs for her to marry Paris, ‘to beg your pardon, pardon I beseech you.’ Eventually even with all the pleading by Juliet her parents possessive nature of forcing her to marry Paris ultimately leads her to fake her own death as they say, ‘I’ll have this knot knit up tomorrow morning’ which leads to the destructive love between both Romeo and Juliet as she is being forced to run away and rebel from what her family wants.
The possessiveness of characters also links to ‘Selected Poems’ by Sylvia Plath; in the poem ‘Daddy’ her father is symbolised as a Nazi as she says; ‘Daddy, I have to kill you’ explicitly showing that she has to kill his control, his possessiveness over her. By saying ‘have to kill you’ also shows that the only way to move or to be free from this authority is to cause destruction; thus showing a similar destructive love as shown in ‘Romeo And Juliet’ between Lord Capulet and his daughter Juliet.
In addition the symbolism of the shoe of the speaker representing their father as we soon realise the poem ‘Daddy’ to be a confessional of Plath’s life story. “Any more black shoe, In which I have lived like a foot.” Plath uses the appearance of feet and black shoes to begin to reveal the image of a possessive relationship with her father. The feet here represent that of the speaker, which is surrounded and held in a shelter by the shoe which symbolises her father. The colour black depicts that this possessiveness is a destructive love; at the end of the poem the speaker uses abusive language, ‘you bastard, I’m through.’ which adds to the tension of how she is trying to let go of that possessiveness that he has over her which is destroying her love between them.
In conclusion I believe all three texts show various factors similar and contrasting views on destructive love through; parental love, possessiveness and jealously”.???
4The Tragedy Of A Black Man In A White World
5Jones, Eldred. “Othello- An Interpretation” Critical Essays on Shakespeare’s Othello. Ed. Anthony G. Barthelemy Pub. Macmillan New York, NY 1994. (page 39-55)
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