Reflection on Leavis Reading of Othello

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There is no doubt that when Professor F.R Leavis discusses Shakespeare’s Othello as a tale of self-destruction, and not of simple manipulation that he is indeed correct. The story of Othello is pivotal on the flaw of character embodied in the antagonist, and it can be recognised by any audience that is his selfishness, lack of self-knowledge, pride and egotistical nature that is the most obvious cause for his downfall. In his article Leavis first describes the opinion of fellow critic, Bradley, as one which is hugely flawed. Bradley believes that the story is a tragedy because of a good and noble man’s undoing by a foreign, intellectual and cunning villain (that is Iago). Othello is to be seen as a “nearly faultless hero whose strength and virtue are turned against him”, and that he and Desdemona had “every chance of happiness”. Leavis comes back at this idea by reminding the audience that “Othello is the chief personage-the chief personage that in such a sense that the tragedy may fairly be said to be Othello’s character. Iago is the subordinate and merely ancillary”. Evidence from other sources and personal evaluations also hold up this theory. When reading the story, it is obvious that Othello has massive flaws in his character. His willingness to accept Iago’s very iffy evidence, show that he is prone to jealousy and is hugely mistrusting. When Iago subtly asks questions about the integrity of his officer Cassio, the logical response would be for Othello to ignore the implications and directly investigate any accusations brought to the table by his adviser. Instead Othello, enraged by the suggestion, is willing to accept circumstantial, falsified and non conclusive evidence, probably directly against the training he would have received in his time in the military. This flaw is not therefore one inflicted by his environment (he was shown how to investigate properly), but one that is internalised, and entirely his fault. The weakness of Othello’s character...
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