4 December, 2011
Othello’s Tragic Fall
According to Aristotle, a tragedy must include the downfall of the tragic hero brought upon by his hamartia, in other words his weakness or flaw. It must also be comprised of the hero’s peripetia, where when he once had it all, it is now all lost. After the peripetia, the anagnorises follows; this is where the hero attributes his downfall to his weakness or flaw. The hero must be noble both in birth as well as in stature and according to Aristotle in the end of the play the audience must experience catharsis by encountering feelings of pity and fear. Even though Shakespeare’s Othello does include most of the requirements of an Aristotelian Tragedy it lacks a few elements, such as a hamartia and an anagnorises as well as catharsis. Othello’s downfall is not brought upon himself instead Iago’s manipulation is the cause, therefore the play does not fulfill Aristotle’s standards of a Tragedy. Although the audience fails to experience catharsis at the end of the play, Othello does help the audience come to the realization that cruel and manipulative people such as Iago exist in today’s society.
While those who consider Othello to be a tragedy might argue that Othello’s hamartia is being naïve, others may attribute Desdemona’s death to Iago’s manipulation of Othello. The fact that Iago was able to manipulate not only Othello but Roderigo, Cassio, Emilia and even Desdemona proves that he is extremely persuasive and thus Iago can be held accountable for Desdemona’s death. Since it is Iago who influences Othello into killing Desdemona that means Othello does not have a hamartia but instead confirms that Iago is very manipulative. Iago slowly but skillfully begins to implant doubt into Othello, for example when they see Cassio walking out of Desdemona’s room: Iago: Ha! I like not that.
Othello: What dost thou say?
Iago: Nothing, my lord: or if—I know not...