Essay About William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare once wrote, “Cowards die many times before their deaths”. Cowardice people hide the truth from others, and sometimes from themselves. In doing this, they may inflict copious amounts of pain and suffering, both physically and mentally on themselves. In the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Dimmesdale is faced with a major conflict: he is a participant in committing adultery with Hester Prynne. He suffers the most of all of the characters because of his cowardice ways and not owning up to his actions. 

In the novel, Dimmesdale is faced with a harsh decision that will decide his fate. To tell of his sin or not to tell, he ultimately hides the way he feels. In doing so, Arthur suffers a major battle in his mind: whether he is making the right decision, or if he is completely wrong. In deciding this, he weighed his options heavily, thinking to himself, “between fleeing as an avowed criminal, and remaining as a hypocrite, conscience might find it hard to strike a balance” (Hawthorne 241). For almost every person, mental battles are the most difficult ones to fight. For Arthur, he became greatly hurt because he can’t see which option is right for him. Both are evidently consequential for him, either he runs from his problem knowing to himself that what he did was wrong but forever remain a coward, or come clean to what he has done and face the community in humiliation, distress, and most likely death will soon follow him. He knows that his silence is haunting him either way, saying, “Be not silent… what can silence do for a man except it tempt him… as it were to add hypocrisy to sin?” (77). Dimmesdale knows that keeping this secret will come back to him eventually, and this being at the beginning of the story shows that he is noticing the effects will eventually catch up with him. This is especially difficult for Arthur because he knows that him hiding his secret is wrong, However, he can’t seem to swallow his pride and confess to the public. In times like these, one may be forced to make tough decisions based on what their morals have to show and what they know will put them in harm’s way. For Dimmesdale, these two majorly contradict themselves and he can’t seem to find a peaceful medium. Because his struggle is so degrading, others begin to notice. When talking with Hester, Pearl, their daughter, asks, “he has his hand over his heart… when the minister wrote his name in the book, the black man set his magic in that place. But why doesn’t he wear it outside his bosom?”(225). Having carved an “A” into his own chest, Dimmesdale hoped that the pain of doing so and having that extremely significant scarlet letter on his body as a permanent mark would help to compensate for all the guilt he feels for not confessing his sin to the public. He chooses to be a coward and conceal the ‘A’ under his clothing, his layers of protection. Dimmesdale argues with himself both verbally and non-verbally when choosing whether or not to hide his sin. In the choice to hide his sin, he suffers an immense amount of pain and agony because of his cowardice actions. 

While he is hiding his sin, Arthur tends to act like two different people, more commonly known as being two-faced. Being a minister, he often preaches the following of the Puritan scripture and to never stray from your faith. Secretly being an adulterer, and knowing so, he still continues to talk down about sinners, saying, “Guilty as they may be… no good can be achieved by them, no evil of the past can be redeemed… their hearts speckled.. With inequity of which they can’t rid”(157). In speaking so badly about the sinners of the world, Arthur is digging himself a deeper hole of self torture. He has this side of him which is the image of the most holy man in the community, and another side which he is perhaps the greatest sinner By speaking these words, Dimmesdale is speaking on behalf of honesty when he is the most dishonest of them all. His secret family sees right through this act. Pearl grows frustrated, telling her mother, “Where only the trees can hear… he kisses my forehead… but here, in the sunny day, among all the people, he knows us not!”(275). In the event of facing the reality of his sin, he hides his true identity. This becomes detrimental to Dimmesdale because he takes on multiple personalities that are quite the opposite of one another. Putting on a show of this perfect man frustrates not only Pearl, but Hester too, as the narrator explains her pondering as she wondered why, “How deeply they had known each other then! And was this the man? She hardly knew him now!”(287). Before committing the sin that they had, Arthur and Hester had a good relationship with one another. Now when faced with confessing or maintaining his image, she watches him try to balance the two by concealing his sin from the public. In doing so for this extensive period of time, Dimmesdale began to break the act and try to convince himself that he is making the right decision. This can create major mental conflict and he eventually loses his sanity, and a sense of who he truly is. Dimmesdale suffers immensely because he refuses to tell the public the truth about his sin, so he keeps a double personality that greatly affected his mental health. 

Due to his inability to own up to his actions and his cowardice ways, Arthur Dimmesdale suffers the most out of every character in the novel. Between the battle he has with Hester and Pearl, and his own mental battles, Arthur goes through a pot of both mental and physical pain. Living his life as a lie has provided that pain for him. As James E. Faust said, “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving”(Google Images).