Actions Speak Louder Than Words English Literature Essay

What you say and what you do can coexist or contradict each other. Speech and actions define who a person is. People speak what they believe and act upon their values. Speech and actions can also reveal a person’s desires, intentions, and motivations. Transferring these human emotions and expressions to a play are important for character development and the realistic aspects of the play. These also contribute to the formation of the plot. Without a driving force behind a character’s actions and speech, the play would serve no purpose. It would become an army with no one to lead it, for the script would just wander aimlessly. The character Othello, Othello the Moor of Venice, and Hellena, The Banished Cavaliers, both display powerful forces driving their speech and actions. Othello wishes to rescue his lover, Desdemona, from herself while Hellena is attempting to escape the life that society is trying to force upon her. Both characters’ desires, intentions, and motivations contribute to the creation of the conflict in both plays. This conflict leads to the climaxes and resolutions. The driving force(s) of a character are what all plays have in common, and what all people can relate to.

In Act V, Scene II of Othello the Moor of Venice, the main character Othello is contemplating whether or not he should take his beloved’s life. He presents two arguments before himself in order to justify the choices he will make later on. The first argument is his love for her. Part of him cannot bring himself to believe that she has betrayed his love for her by showing affection towards Cassio. He states, “It is the cause. Yet I’ll not shed her blood…” (Jacobus 249). However, directly after this he presents himself with the second argument: “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men” (Jacobus 249). He is torn in two between extinguishing her “light” and letting her live. He wants to save not only other men from Desdemona, but also save her from herself. This is because he feels she is destroying the life they have constructed. He feels that this act of killing her is duty, but it then turns to jealousy: “And mak’st me call what I intend to do a murder, which I thought a sacrifice” (Jacobus 250). What starts out, in his mind, as good intentions soon leads down the path of destruction and sorrow. He ends up destroying the object of most importance in his life, his love for Desdemona. Othello is also trying to preserve the love between them by ending the “sin” he suspects. Although to him the love is already tainted, he feels that he can still salvage the wreckage. This can be seen as the motivation behind the murdering of his beloved. His desire is that Desdemona will repent and ask for forgiveness of her “wrong-doings.”

Soon after Othello murders Desdemona, he begins to regret his decision for doubt is gnawing at him: “My wife! what wife! I have no wife… Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse of sun and moon, and that th’ affrighted globe should yawn at alteration” (Jacobus 250). Soon after he discovers the truth, that Desdemona did not betray his love but was setup by Iago. This recognition of the truth signals to Othello that his time is short: “Here I my journey’s end… when we shall meet at compt (final accounting, last judgment), this look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven, and fiends will snatch at it” (Jacobus 252). Othello has determined that his life is at an end for the acts he has committed. His murder of Desdemona now motivates him to seek justice upon Iago and end his own existence. However, he does not kill Iago, for he only wounds him: “‘Iago: ‘I bleed, sir, but not killed.’ Othello: ‘I am not sorry neither. I’ld have thee live… ’tis happiness to die’” (Jacobus 253). Othello wishes Iago to live, wounded, so he cannot escape the pain. Just as Othello cannot escape the emotional pain of his actions except through death, Iago cannot escape the punishment of his actions. Not much later Othello stabs himself, ending his life. Othello sees death as an escape from the pain and torment he will endure for his actions.

In Act I, Scene I of The Banished Cavaliers, Hellena has a discussion with her sister and brother about love. Her sister Florinda is to be married to Don Vincentio upon her father’s wishes. Her brother wishes Florinda to marry the son of Vincentio, Don Antonio. Hellena protests to this because both choices are against Florinda’s true desire: to marry Belvile. “Pedro: ‘But what jewels will that Cavalier (Belvile) present you with? Those of his eyes and his heart?’ Hellena: ‘And are not those better than any Don Vincentio has brought from the Indies’” (Jacobus 321)? Hellena is to become a nun within the days following a carnival. Although she will face a life of vows and solitude, she counts it better to become a nun instead of being forced into a life (marriage) she does not want, like her sister. “Is’t not enough you make a nun of me, but you cast my sister away too, exposing her to a worse confinement than a religious life” (Jacobus 322)? She feels it is better to be alone than to be with someone you do not love. This is the reason for her choosing to become a nun.

Hellena and Florinda are searching for true love and to make their own decisions about their futures. They view the carnival as one last escape: for them to be themselves and make their own decisions. They are going to do “that which the world does” and “be as mad as the rest and take all innocent freedoms” (Jacobus 323). Hellena’s speech lines up with her actions in that she protests the decisions being made for her and her sister, and she decides to defy her brother’s wishes and attend the carnival for one last night of freedom. Hellena’s motives are to escape the grasp society has on her life and her desires are to make her own decision when it comes to love.

Both characters displayed strong wills and motives throughout the entirety of the plays. Their motives and desires drove their speech and actions. Some actions they made led to feelings of regret and some satisfaction. The majority of the time, they spoke what they believed and acted upon what they said. A problem that plagues many people today is acting upon what they say. Broken promises and hypocrisy are just two examples. There is something to be said about a person who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. It is easy for someone to say they believe something, but it is harder to act upon that “belief.” Acting upon what is said reveals the truth.