Recognition in Tragedy - Othello

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’There are various degrees of recognition in tragedy. In Othello, recognition is minimal: the protagonist learns what he has done and what he has lost, but learns little or nothing about himself.’’ How far do you agree? – This is a quote that I have adapted into my thesis, taken from ‘’A Book of literary terms’’.

Anagnorisis, a Greek word meaning ‘’recognition’’, is described by Aristotle as ‘’a change from ignorance to knowledge’’. I agree with this statement as, in the play Othello, Othello’s character experiences this transition but not fully, he doesn’t get to the point of self realisation where he can be ‘’wash[ed]’’ (V.II.278) or cleansed to reach redemption. In Othello, recognition is minimal as the character never manages to completely understand himself or his actions.

In Act V scene II Othello’s last speeches are dignified, but they lack purpose as he doesn’t seem to have a full understanding of all that has happened. He uses his first speech to condemn himself and his ghastly deed. Othello does seem to feel genuine remorse, as he blames himself, but he almost doesn’t fully recognise that it was by his own doing that she lay there dead. Othello’s character lets us know that he has recognised his mistake, referring to himself as ‘’not valiant neither’’ (V.II.241) this being a contrast against him formally known as ‘’the valiant Moor’’ throughout the play. This name ‘’Valiant Othello’’ gave him pride in himself, he had a sense of belonging and for him to admit that he is ‘’not valiant neither’’, whilst using a double negative enforcing the power and belief in the words, gives us the idea that he knows the depth of the sin he has committed, but not how he is held responsible. Why is the word ‘’Valiant’’ used? The word itself originating from the French ‘’ Vallant’’ coming from the verb ‘’Valoir’’ – to be of worth. We still ask whether he was worthy of Desdemona, and whether he was ready to love someone. Othello’s character begins to speak of himself...
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