To what extent can Othello be considered a ‘tragic hero’?
The extent of which Othello is a tragic hero has been open to much debate; the basis on which he is judged falls to Aristotle’s established view of the crucial elements that distinguish whether a person is truly tragic. According to Aristotle, a tragic protagonist is a nobleman or person from high status, who contributes to his own demise and illustrates a flaw or weakness in judgment. The tragic protagonist must make a fall from a high state of being to a low state or death. The tragic hero’s downfall, said Aristotle, was brought upon by some error of judgement. Aristotle’s theory is not the final word on tragedy, however it can support in pinpointing the pivotal traits in Othello’s character and when they occur, with great accuracy. This tragic ‘flaw’ has sometimes been incorrectly interpreted in moral terms, and some critics have looked for some moral weakness in the tragic hero. For Othello, this has led to the commonplace assertion that his fall is because he was too naïve and trusting in his subordinate, Iago. Although, metaphorically speaking he does fall from a great height, it would be wrong to suggest that because Othello satisfies one of the Aristotelian criteria, it makes him a tragic hero. It is only when the six basic ideas are considered, can a hero be justly regarded as ‘tragic’.
Nobility can be defined as a person who possesses excellent qualities of mind and character and who is not mean or petty. If you were to judge Othello’s character on the basis of this definition then it would be unfair to suggest that his nobility can support his claim to be a tragic hero. To some, Othello lacks nobility and portrays a number of actions to justify this. His prestigious role as a General-to an extent-proves his nobility to the audience. For Othello to live in a predominantly white Venetian society, requires a certain amount of bravery which in a sense partially fulfils the criteria...
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