By Steve Lewis

The similarities will seize you by the throat.

In Shakespeare's Othello, we are presented with a warrior of impeccable grace, courage, and character who murders his wife.

Nearly 400 years later, we would bear televised witness to an athlete-warrior of publicly impeccable grace, courage, and character who (everyone but the jury agrees) murders his wife.

Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, was married to a beautiful, fair-skinned woman considerably younger than he was. In time, he grew violently jealous, a powerful weakness of character for one who had earned such a noble and strong reputation.

O.J., a Hall of Fame running back, was also married to a beautiful, fair-skined woman who was considerably younger than he. And like Othello, he had grown over the years progressively jealous and abusive, a shocking weakness of character for one who was universally perceived as a hero.

Monstrously afraid he is being made the fool, Othello strangles the fair Desdemona in a particularly pitiless, premeditated fashion.

Then, after the murder, in a sudden, desperate awareness of his own emotional frailty - and his lost reputation - he impales himself with a dagger.

Four centuries later, in one more eerie parallel to the famous tragedy, after being charged with the brutal, premeditated murders of his wife and a man with whom she was sharing company, O.J. Simpson holds the barrel of a gun to his skull and threatens to do the bloody deed.

Those are more or less the remarkable parts of the coincidental parallels between the two icons, enough to raise the hairs on the back of our collective necks, perhaps sufficiently entertaining for those who enjoy trivia games or miniseries.

But what takes the breath away is the similarity of the pathetic rationales the fallen heroes offer for their cowardly misdeeds.

After he slays Desdemona, Othello says, "Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate. Nor set down aught in malice. Then you must speak of one who loved not wisely, but too well."

And Orenthal James Simpson, in an updated reflection of the famous Moor's final dramatic words, writes in a letter read by his friend Robert Kardashian, "... I loved her, always have and always will. If we had a problem, it's because I loved her too much."

Not wisely? Too much? Really? Really?

However inconceivable it is that anyone would reasonably conflate killing a lover with excessive love for that individual, the theater audience, then and now, somehow feels sorrow, not anger, for Othello's greatly tortured noble soul. They blame the villain Iago. They stand to recognize and applaud the terrible weight of greatness that the man must bear. They weep for their tragic hero lying dead on the stage - not for Desdemona.

The same kind of dispensation was offered Simpson 21 years ago when Californians stopped their cars on an L.A. freeway, yelling, "Go, Juice!" It was as if he, a craven fugitive from justice, were cruising toward the end zone for one last glorious score.

And on Feb. 2, millions of Americans will follow an FX miniseries and again have the opportunity to cheer and weep and bemoan the fate of their fallen champion - not that of Nicole Brown Simpson.

Yet if we were to finally be honest with ourselves and speak of abusers as they truly are, we'd have to say that men who beat and murder women are nothing more than feckless weaklings.

Bullies.

Batterers.

Cowards.

Assassins.

And in a self-serving corruption of the ultimate virtue that makes life worth living, they inevitably beg forgiveness, hiding behind some perverse notion of love too large to contain, clueless as to their own responsibility in the real tragedies they perpetrate.

If we were to be honest, O.J. Simpson and his literary counterpart Othello should share what they feared most: being "A fixed figure for the time of scorn."

Steve Lewis is a freelance writer and a member of the Sarah Lawrence Writing Institute faculty. Contact him via @lewiswrite4hire or www.stevelewiswriter.com.