Themes in Wuthering Heights




‘at a distance from both of us.’

‘Tis not a year or two shows us a man.’

Shakespeare and Bronte both highlight how a chasm between couples can lead to broken relationships.

‘I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction and I am too idle to destroy for nothing.’

‘It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon.’

Bronte shows how people’s personalities change due to love. Heathcliff at first becomes revengeful, and then loses all will to carry out his hatred. Similarly Shakespeare presents the idea that jealousy can eat up a person until they become spiteful and monstrous.

‘Nelly I am Heathcliff.’

‘Would she give you so much of her lips as her tongue she oft bestows on me, you would have enough.’

Bronte and Shakespeare have opposing opinions on what love is. Bronte is a romantic, believing that love is the true union of two people. Shakespeare on the other hand presents a relationship which is corrupt. Iago is completely incapable of having any loving relationship with Desdemona, belittling women hence his broken relationship.

‘But both their minds tending to the same point – one loving and desiring to esteem, the other loving and desiring to be esteemed.’

‘A good wench, give it me.’

Both authors present how equality can have a crucial part in a relationship. Whilst Bronte shows how Cathy and Hareton complement each other extremely well and as a result have a loving relationship, Shakespeare shows how unrequited love can have horrendous effects.

“chains, forged by habit, which it would be cruel to attempt to loosen”

“You are lord of all my duty”

Both Shakespeare and Bronte compare romantic love to that of family love, and show that in some cases the bonds between parent and child can be deeper and stronger than that between couples.

“she is so immeasurably superior to them – to everybody on earth; is she not, Nelly?”

“the divine Desdemona”

Both authors present some women in relationships as being on pedestals, either having been placed there by their lover or by the authors themselves. However, it is clear that both Shakespeare and Bronte believe this to be unhealthy, as in all relationships where there is such an inequality it inevitably ends in failure.

“You love Mr Edgar because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you”

“she loved me for the dangers I had passed…”

Both Bronte and Shakespeare create relationships that have shallow foundations in order to contrast superficial relationships with the more real, passionate ones. This highlights the most important aspects of successful relationships.

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it…”

“sweet Desdemon” à “whore”

Both authors show love to be a very changeable emotion, with Bronte using natural imagery to put across this message while Shakespeare uses a simplistic yet effective shift of language.





  • “I am glad thy father’s dead.”


  • “Her spirit has taken the post of ministering angel, and guards the fortunes of Wuthering Heights, even when her body is gone.”



Both Bronte and Shakespeare present death as better than the living – whereas Shakespeare explicitly states it is better to be dead, Bronte implies it through beautiful imagery when describing the afterlife.


  • “O!O!O!”


  • “He is clearly on the verge of madness.”



The consequences of death, i.e.; the process of grieving, is touched upon by both authors. When someone dies in a relationship in both texts, it causes the other person, now alone, to be driven almost to madness, shown by Othello’s inability to speak in coherent sentences and Isabella’s explicit use  of the word “madness.”


  • “Moor, she was chaste; she loved thee…

       So speaking as I think, I die.”

  • “I don’t want you Edgar; I’m past wanting you…”



Bronte and Shakespeare use death as a way of revealing truths – in each quotation, the person (Emilia and Cathy) who is about to die feels that they can truly speak their mind as they will not suffer the consequences of their honesty.



  • “I took by th’throat the circumciséd dog

        And Smote him thus.” 

  • “He had no surname, and we could not tell his age, we were obliged to content ourselves with the single word, “Heathcliff.”


Here, Bronte and Shakespeare take completely opposing decisions regarding the death of their protagonists; whereas Shakespeare’s ensures that Othello is seen as a brave, noble soldier, who is worthy of remembrance, Heathcliff has nothing to be remembered by; only a name.




‘I hope you will consider what is spoke / Comes from my love’ – Iago (Act III, Scene III)

‘He dreams of you day and night, and cannot be persuaded that you don’t hate him, since you neither write nor call’ – Heathcliff to Catherine

Shakespeare and Bronte portray Heathcliff and Iago as characters who use manipulation to hide their true motives.

‘And nothing can or shall content my soul / Till I am evened with him, wife for wife’ – Iago (Act II, Scene I)

‘I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable; I shall not sleep for satisfaction’ – Heathcliff to Catherine

Both Heathcliff and Iago are presented with a compulsion to carry out their revenge. Iago claims he will pursue his revenge until his soul is ‘content’, yet even after Heathcliff has begun to act out his revenge, he is portrayed as equally obsessed as he was prior to it.

‘Unkindness may do much / And his unkindness may defeat my life / but never taint my love’ -Desdemona of Othello (Act IV, Scene II)

‘It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn’ – Cathy and Edgar

Bronte and Shakespeare present Desdemona and Edgar as very devoted characters, who are motivated by their desire to make their partners happy, ignoring the faults that they have.

‘Seek thou rather to be hanged in compassing thy joy than to be drowned and go without her’ – Iago of Roderigo and Desdemona ‘Wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue?’ – Roderigo (Act I, Scene III)

‘he put out his hand and stroked one curl, as gently as if it were a bird’ – Hareton to Catherine

Bronte portrays Hareton as a character of pure and innocent motives, while Roderigo in Othello is presented as a much less honourable character, with his ‘love’ for Desdemona appearing as more of a physical admiration.



  1. ‘Till I am evened with him, wife for wife’ – pg 65 line 280

‘She stamped her foot wavered a moment, and then, irresistibly impelled by the naughty spirt within her’

Both Bronte and Shakespeare present characters who are extremely selfish and can therefore hardly restrain themselves from acting indecent. The characters of Iago and Cathy are equally vindictive.

  1. ‘ How the boy would do her bidding in anything’ – Chp 5

‘Have mercy on me’ – Act 5 scene 2 page 197

Bronte and Shakespeare explore characters who are dismissive of others feelings and take advantage of the people that love them. Cathy is aware of her control over Heathcliff, likewise is Othello.

  1. ‘ Desire nobody to be loved but yourself’

‘I lack iniquity/ Sometimes to do me service’ – Act 1 scene 2 page 15

Bronte and Shakespeare highlight the selfish characters who are fulfilled with love for themselves.

  1. ‘ My design is as honest as possible’ – Heathcliff  about young Cathy and Edgar Linton

‘Give birth to this monstrous plan’ – Iago

Bronte and Shakespeare illustrate characters that plan vindictive plots for their own purposes, in order to gain control.

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