I’d also nominate Feste for TN.
With a photo of Ben Kingsley, of course.
Dude, this. is. AWESOME. I love the Benedick quote.
LG – Cordelia
NG – Portia?
CG – Benedick
LN – Marc Anthony
TN – Hamlet
CN – Puck
LE – I know I should know this, but I’m drawing a blank and it’s making me feel dumb.
LE – Lady Macbeth
CE – Iago
I’m thinking 7 out of nine without looking them up? Maybe 8?
Er Desdemona, not Portia…. But I’m probably wrong there.
In any case, this is one of my favorite Alignment charts you’ve done.
LE is Shylock, from Merchant of Venice
NG was the only one I had to look up (after having taken a couple of Shakespeare classes at Bryn Mawr). Apparently it’s Isabella from Measure for Measure.
Thanks Larry, I was waaay off. I thought it was a character from one of the Historical plays.
I would never have gotten Isabella either, don’t think I’ve ever read Measure….
Very well done on getting M4M in there. I was on the brink of posting a ‘Always picking the most well-known plays’, smartarse comment…
You know, when I first saw the picture for CE (before reading the quote), I thought it was going to be Aaron. “If one good deed in all my life I did / I do repent it now!”, and all that. Was that just me?
There’s no way CE could have been anybody BUT Iago. He’s the classic example of “My motivation is FUCK YOU.”
Thank you for stripping me of any semi-balance of theater nerd cred. I guessed “Good daughter from King Lear”, “Evil Merchant from the Merchant of Venice”, “I hope the middle guy is Hamlet maybe?”, “Puck”, and “Clearly someone from Julius Caeser who isn’t Julius Caeser, as he’s dead at this point in the play.”
LN is Brutus.
Antony would be (arguably) NE in Julius Caesar, and CG in Antony and Cleopatra.
Aaron is the most obvious choice for CE. RIchard of Gloucester/Richard III would also be an interesting character to include. CE or NE?
Puck is great for CN, but Falstaff works arguably better.
I’d go for Richard III for NE. Pure ambition. AND you have a chance to have a picture of Ian McKellen in a Nazi uniform firing a mauser (I love that movie).
I’m sure it says something about me that I had no problems with identifying the bottom 2/3 of this chart but for all of the folks on the “Good” line I sat scratching my head. Even with the answers, and realizing I’ve seen all three plays they’re from, I’m still kind of scratching my head…
Like many others, it was Measure for Measure that stumped me.
I kind of assumed Edgar would be Chaotic Evil, but only because I’d forgotten about Iago. Probably the purest example ever.
Thank you, sir. You have given this pretentious geek something to smile at.
Yeah, some of the “Good” choices are a bit odd. I have a hard time analyzing where I would put Isabella on this chart. And shouldn’t Cordelia be Chaotic Good, since she rebels against an unjust royal decree?
Here’s my alternate “Good” picks:
Lawful Good: Hector (“The brave man holds honor far more precious-dear than life.”)
Neutral Good: Viola (“Time, thou must untangle this, not I”)
Chaotic Good: Mercutio (“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man!”)
Will: Surely you mean Edmund? Edgar is definitely Chaotic Good.
Don’t worry about it though. I’ve confused their names many times before as well.
Cordelia is Lawful Good. She doesn’t rebel, she’s cast out by King Lear, and yet she stays faithful.
Surely I can’t be the only one to think that it would be possible to populate that Alignment chart entirely with Kenneth Branagh.
Someone’s going to give you shit for putting Shylock in Neutral Evil. He’s so sympathetic people forget he’s the villain. But then, people also forget The Merchant of Venice is a comedy.
The key to understanding Shylock is that he’s Stan Gable, the lead jock from Revenge of the Nerds. The last scene of the play is dedicated entirely to piling humiliations on his head, like the villain of a lot of comedies, so we have to believe that he deserves it. Unfortunately, Shakespeare fucked that up and made Shylock too sympathetic. So Shylock is Stan Gable if Stan had three extra scenes in which he reveals that he only became a jock to try and win his father’s approval, he’s terrified that he’ll have no real career after college, and his macho routine is covering for some serious questions about his sexuality.
Give Stan those three scenes and suddenly the last scene of the movie is depressing and horrible. Like the last scene of The Merchant of Venice.
Isabella was an inspired choice for NG. The key to her character is that she’s a saint from a mystery play trapped in a late Shakespeare comedy. She’s brave, pious, and wholly good – qualities which in Measure for Measure’s godless universe bring her trouble without the solace of martyrdom.
(Some productions try to portray Isabella as LG, shrill and inflexible. This never works; she loses the audience’s sympathy, and Angelo’s lust for her appears inexplicable rather than monstrous.)
I’m not sure why there is a boring Shakespeare alignment chart here as opposed to a My Little Pony Chart alignment chart.
Aaron’s a proto-Iago, really. You could use him, but Iago is so famously rotten for no real motivation than sheer viciousness.
@Brad: Shylock is LE, not NE, which makes sense as he tries to use the letter of the law to a fairly cruel end (sympathetic though he is).
I’m pretty sure using Doctor Who on your D&D Shakespeare chart is some sort of mega-nerd ultra-combo.
I’m not sure why there is a boring Shakespeare alignment chart here as opposed to a My Little Pony Chart alignment chart.
There are neutral characters in My Little Pony?
@Brandi: Agh, brainfart. Of course I meant to type LE. Thanks for catching that.
I don’t see Hamlet as True Neutral; that buys into the whole “he’s indecisive” myth about the play. Hamlet is Neutral Good. He’s determined to discover whether the ghost is telling the truth for the first half of the play…once he satisfies himself to that point, he becomes the instrument of heaven’s wrath, regardless of the laws of man. That’s NG to me.
I’m not sure I agree with Puck being neutral.
Chaotic without question.
And why not Richard III as lawful evil? I’d consider him a better fit than Shylock, because (as Brad pointed out) Shylock is a little TOO sympathetic to be truly evil in my book.
Richard on the other hand is unapologetic bastard and absolutely revels in it.
Richard II is evil, but is he lawful? We have Lady M here as Neutral Evil, and that might be a better fit. We can’t say Richard is Lawful because he’s king, because than why isn’t Lady M lawful because she becomes queen?
What the characters have in common is a self-focused ambition combined with willingness to use any means, including violence and deception, to climb to the top of a hierarchy. Isn’t that Neutral Evil’s MO?
Hamlet is Neutral Good. He’s determined to discover whether the ghost is telling the truth for the first half of the play…once he satisfies himself to that point, he becomes the instrument of heaven’s wrath, regardless of the laws of man. That’s NG to me.
This interpretation ignores his obvious maternal jealousy, needless cruelty to others (fig. 1: Ophelia) and general lack of remorse for the havoc he causes in his wake. I’m happy with TN.
I think I might have heard that Iago quote on FOX News recently.
I’m pretty sure Shakespeare didn’t “fuck up” in making his main Jewish character sympathetic and not an evil comic caricature like Barabas, but YMMV.
@Rivka: Well, that’s the issue. From a comedic-structure standpoint, he DID fuck up. The Merchant of Venice isn’t performed as a comedy these days, despite being a comedy, because Shylock’s humanity makes it not funny. Shylock is absolutely not an evil comic caricature; he has the speech MGK quotes on the chart, which is the greatest plea for sympathy for the dehumanized… basically ever. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and was, for the time, an incredibly brave creative choice.
Unfortunately, it ruins the comedy. The last scene is all about piling more and more humiliations on Shylock’s head, stripping him of everything he’s got, even his religion. Which, if he’s an evil comic caricature, is a good ending. It’s the ending Stan Gable got, the ending Tartuffe got, it’s the ending of hundreds of good comedies. But we have to hate the villain, and Shylock makes it impossible to hate him.
So you can keep the structure and lose the humanity, or keep the humanity and lose the structure, but Shakespeare did neither. It’s possible he wrote a draft where Shylock got an ending befitting his humanity, but that’s not the version we have. The version we have is a comedy that’s more depressing than funny.
“There’s no way CE could have been anybody BUT Iago. He’s the classic example of ‘My motivation is FUCK YOU.'”
I agree he’s a good pick for CE, but not because he has no motivation – that’s an old canard that has no basis in the play. He states his motivation in painstaking detail: he thinks Othello was promoted above him, he thinks Othello might have slept with his wife, and he’s a racist to boot. All perfectly understandable motivations for any villain, and very legible motivations to boot.
Hamlet is Neutral Good.
Hamlet callously fucks over Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for no good reason. Righteous instruments of Heaven’s wrath are not so indiscriminate in their body counts.
Cordelia was an inspired choice for LG. And btw, if you get a chance to see Derek Jaobi’s Lear, take it. It was broadcast from the Donmar Theatre in London to movie theatres around the world earlier this month, and it was breathtakingly good. I’m hoping that it will come out on DVD, so that I can own a copy.
However, he changes this motivation numerous times and eventually seems to realize he just likes being evil. It’s FUN.
Iago’s having FUN? Perhaps you have him confused with Richard III. Or Aaron. By the time Shakespeare wrote Othello, he’d matured beyond Marlovian hero-villains. Iago reads as almost a deconstruction of Shakespeare’s earlier love-to-hate antagonists. He has a dark, dark charisma, but is also a manifestly twisted and petty human being. Iago’s wry asides are enjoyable, but still bespeak a completely deprived mind- “He hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly.” Any pleasure he gets from his crimes is the bitter joy of indiscriminate destruction– He ends up killing his own wife, getting caught, and sentenced to torture. Because his victims (Othello, Roderigo, Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia, Bianca) are all fleshed-out characters, he can’t dominate the production and the audiences sympathies the way Richard III does. Shakespeare creates in Iago a portrait of humanity at its darkest, and he doesn’t let us off the hook by letting him have FUN.
I just saw a live broadcast of Jacobi’s Lear. Man, was it good.
And the fact that Tennant’s quote fits with his other role perfectly is a bonus.
This is shockingly right and true, MGK.
Cordelia is perfect (as is the quote), Puck is perfect, as is Brutus, Hamlet, Benedick also. I quibble with Iago as chaotic, despite his extemporaneous wickedness, in that he Has A Plan; I’d shove Lear in the CE slot. I am struggling a bit with whether M./Lady M. are interchangeable at NE. And perhaps Viola, ruse-player, poet, and genderbender at NG?
Hamlet is cruel to Ophelia because he thinks she’s in on it (the Branagh Hamlet stages this particularly well) and to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they’re in the midst of trying to kill him and don’t ever seem particularly sorry about it. And he does show remorse at the end, apologizing (albeit somewhat disingenuously) to Laertes for the death of his father.
In any event, arguing that he’s too disregarding of the chaos he leaves in his wake is a good argument for “chaotic good”, not “true neutral”. In the end, he is avenging a murder, which is generally considered a “good” motive.
It’s been too long since I’ve seen/read the source, but Prospero strikes me as a good fit for TN.
So John Seavey would argue for King Hamlet’s ghost as True Neutral?
Hamlet spends most of the play being Chaotic Useless, but that doesn’t fit on the D&D axes.
I don’t recognize the production that the shot of Lady Macbeth is from - not that I know any by sight, anyway - but I would have picked Macbeth on the Estate just to be eccentric. And rather than the flower/serpent line, why not “…I fear thy nature; | It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness |
To catch the nearest way…” which sounds much more Neutral Evil in its pragmatism to me. Isn’t it true, though, that Lady Macbeth thinks that she’s Neutral Evil, but discovers that she’s not cut out for it?
“…I fear thy nature; | It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness |
To catch the nearest way…”
As for that Iago line: I don’t think you’d hear it on the air, but it’s got to be in an internal memo somewhere. The press in general might arguably be Chaotic Neutral, but there’s just such irresponsible malice in the raving that Fox sees fit to disseminate…
Ah, I see that I’ve outsmarted myself with the <Q> tag.
@ Frag: Prospero definitely qualifies as good, either NG or CG. He plays some capricious tricks on his enemies, but he ultimately forgives them and moves on.
I recognized all of them except for NG, because I’ve never read that play.
I agree on Shylock as LE. By the end of the play, he’s a monster; he’s attempting to kill Antonio for something that Antonio really had nothing to do with and wouldn’t merit a death sentence anyway even if he had. The tragedy of it is that society has acted to make Shylock a monster, and we can understand him.
Eric S Smith,
That Lady Macbeth is the painting by Singer Sargent of actress Miss Ellen Terry from the 1888 production, wearing a now famous costume piece the beetle wing embroidery dress designed by Alice Comyns-Carr.
I’m with Seavey on Hamlet–while he does some things that are questionable, he’s operating according to a major moral crisis. His dilemma is centered around figuring out the right thing to do–for himself in part, it’s true, but also for his father’s honor and in the name of justice for the murder. I’m having a hard time fitting that into “True Neutral.”
@Tim O’Neil re: Iago’s motivation. While he does mention Cassio’s promotion and his thought that Iago slept with his wife – along with his own feelings for Desdemona – the fact that he mentions all of these at different times in different contexts allows for the reading that he doesn’t actually have a simple motivation beyond hate.
Plus, I don’t think Iago is racist. He uses racist language in order to stir up Brabantio and Roderigo and use *their* racism against Othello – the rest of the time, he has nothing to say on the matter.
Perhaps my reading is colored: I had a discussion with one of the Shakespeare profs at my school – a very well-respected senior faculty who had been teaching Othello for many decades – and he personally thought the “Iago has no motivation” meme was baseless, and was able to explain in just a couple minutes exactly what Iago’s motivations were. He said he usually began his lectures on the play with the catalog of Iago’s motivations specifically to dispel the misconception. Quite convincing, at least for me.
Going back to the text, all the motivations are right there – and I am unconvinced that a multiplicity of motives makes any of them less valid. It’s possible to have multiple motives for doing even simple things, so why not multiple motives for complex acts?
After thinking about it for another minute, I just want to add that I don’t believe that Iago’s motivations contradict MGK’s CE alignment. I think CE makes a lot of sense: someone with a multitude of grudges, acting from a deep sense of personal animus, is going to act in as unpredictably ruthless and relentless fashion as possible. Just the fact that he doesn’t care at all for the collateral damage of his plot – unlike Shylock or Lady Macbeth, who are both, in their ways, very much aware of and concerned with the negative consequences of their actions – makes him an agent of chaos.
Hamlet is cruel to Ophelia because he thinks she’s in on it.
That’s one interpretation of the text, but hardly a universal one. Even if we accept it, it’s a guess on Hamlet’s part. Hamlet sought proof of his uncle’s guilt before acting against him. But when, on the basis of an unsupported belief that his girlfriend might be peripherally complicit in the plot, he deliberately drives her to despondency, madness, and suicide, you consider that to be an act of good? I don’t.
and to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern because they’re in the midst of trying to kill him and don’t ever seem particularly sorry about it.
Nonsense. R&G have no idea what they’re in the midst of. They have no idea the king was murdered, and there’s nothing to suggest they know that they’re escorting Hamlet to his execution. They are acting on orders, asked by their king to seek the reasons for their childhood friend’s melancholy, and wholly oblivious to the machinations in which they are caught. They aren’t co-conspirators — most productions I’ve seen run with the Stoppard joke where the king and queen can’t even keep their names straight. Yet Hamlet has them killed, even though their deaths do exactly nothing to further his goals.
In the end, he is avenging a murder, which is generally considered a “good” motive.
Committing evil acts in pursuit of a good objective does not sum to good overall. I don’t consider “the ends justifies the means” to be an aspect of any ethos in the top third of the alignment chart.
Come, now. Hamlet does not “deliberately drive” Ophelia “to despondency, madness & suicide”; his murder of Polonius–the crucial motivation for her resulting insanity–is clearly painted as an accident.
Likewise, to say that R&G simply “have no idea what they’re in the midst of” is to buy into revisionist literature. In the text of Hamlet, we can never be sure of the extent of their involvement with the plot–although we can be relatively sure of Hamlet’s belief of their involvement. As best as he can tell, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern HAVE betrayed him, and he acts accordingly.
Regarding Hamlet, I don’t think he “deliberately drives” Oohelia to suicide, but he is needlessly cruel towards her without any proof she is involved with anything.
Rosencrantz an Guilderstein are a more complicated matter. Neither we nor Hamlet have
any proof they’re in on anything. Still, he gets both of them killed.
I’m comfortable with Hamlet as TN.
On a nother note: Form which production is the image of Puck? Very disturbing image, indeed.
I don’t know, doing bad things to perceived bad people for “good” reasons is pretty textbook CG
An important thing to remember is that in many interpretations, Hamlet is in an extremely compromised emotional state. His father isn’t the only ghost he’s jumping at: Hamlet’s world is a place of shadows, conspiracies and paralyzing juxtapositions. Compare this with the traditional foil interpretation of Fortinbras, who commits definite, clear actions in the name of his own quest to avenge his father — none of which get nearly his entire court killed and his country conquered.
With all that in mind, Hamlet goes with many accepted interpretations of True Neutral. Everything from the silly “do something bad for every good thing you do and vice-versa,” to the more modern (3.0 era) “unwilling or unable to fully subscribe to the ethos/agenda of good or evil.”
To me, Hamlet makes sense as TN because of the deeply personal nature of his journey through the story. He is not really interested in order or justice other than as a tool to justify his actions and clearly paint his “enemies.” While self-invovled, he is not nearly hungry or monstrous enough to be truly called evil. His wish may be to destroy Claudious, but he believes it will bring balance.
Hamlet may call that balance Justice, but the only thing he’s really trying to fix is himself.
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