From Hero to Zero and Back Again
In Shakespeare’s play Othello, the protagonist begins as a highly esteemed member of Venetian society but plummets into a spiral of jealousy and insecurity, losing both his reputation and his cherished lover. Despite blundering from one folly to the next, however, Othello ultimately displays qualities of a true hero. Although his actions grow increasingly serious and finally even murderous, the purity of his intentions is revealed through both his actions and speech. Even under the poisonous influence of a master dissimulator such as Iago, Othello’s pure love and honor constantly battle with the lies he believes to be true in his mind. Despite his setting in racist Venice, Othello is able to overcome the prejudice and display a facet of his heroism through his noble disposition. Upon hearing Brabantio’s complaints about Othello illicitly seducing Desdemona, the Duke of Venice, a highly esteemed member of Venetian society, directly addresses Othello’s rising above his prejudice by saying to Brabantio, “If virtue no delighted beauty lack, Your son-in-law is far more fair than black” (Act 1.3.290-291). In this same situation we see Othello himself meeting these serious allegations of witchcraft with a remarkably calm and tactful manner, the way a hero should perform in a stressful situation. When he is approached by Brabantio and a group of high-ranking officers with drawn swords and flaming torches, he calmly says, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. Good signior, you shall more command with years Than with your weapons” (Act 1.2.58-61). The reader is impressed by not only the cleverness and wisdom exhibited by his response but also the poetic manner with which he speaks, made all the more pronounced when apposed with Brabantio’s coarse reply with, “O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow’d my daughter?” (Act 1.2.62-63) We also hear of Othello’s heroic and noble personality through other...
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