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Othello - the Tragic Hero

Oct 08, 1999 817 Words
Othello: The Tragic Hero

In William Shakespeare's Othello, Othello is the tragic hero. He is a character of high stature who is destroyed by his surroundings, his own actions, and his fate. His destruction is essentially precipitated by his own actions, as well as by the actions of the characters surrounding him. The tragedy of Othello is not a fault of a single villain, but is rather a consequence of a wide range of feelings, judgments and misjudgments, and attempts for personal justification exhibited by the characters. Othello is first shown as a hero of war and a man of great pride and courage. As the play continues, his character begins to deteriorate and become less noble. Chronologically through the play, Othello's character changes from a flawless military leader, to a murderer. He has certain traits which make him seem naive and unsophisticated compared to many other people. Iago knows Othello is a proud man, Othello's open and trusting nature in the beginning of the play lets Iago- cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting; use him as a scapegoat.

Othello, the Moor, as many Venetians call him, is of strong character. He is very proud and in control of every move throughout the play. The control is not only of power but also of the sense of his being who he is, a great warrior. In Act I, Othello has a scuffle with Brabantio, who has come to kill him, but before anything could happen, Othello said:

"Hold your hands, both of you of my inclining and the rest. Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter" (I, ii, lines 97-100).

The power shown here is quite astounding.

The nature of Othello's character is of a dark man. Not only because he is black, but also because his whole person is very mysterious. He is mysterious in that he believes there is magic everywhere. With this dark side, he is also very outgoing, and not very bright. He is not observant and the schemes of Iago work well on him. For all the dangers and encounters he has been involved in, this man is still naive of the corruptness of other individuals. Othello has a trusting nature in which he gives it all. He put all his trust in Iago during times of war and during Othello's marriage to Desdemona. Everyone considered Iago as honest, and it would be out of character for Othello to believe any different. For example, Othello had told Duke:

"So please your grace, my ancient; A man he is of honesty and trust. To his conveyance I assign my wife, with what else needful your good grace shall think, To be sent after me" (I, iii, lines 306-310).

Even if Othello was not as trusting or corrupt, he still would not realize Iago was lying. Othello commits his first act of violence against Desdemona by hitting her. This shows now Othello's tragic flaw. He made himself susceptible to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the end of others. By his actions, Othello has isolated himself from everyone except Iago. This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to complete his course of action. Finally, Othello's breakdown results in the murder of his wife Desdemona. Desdemona, representative of goodness and heaven, blames her death on herself and not Othello. She is representative of the good in nature and is referred to as "white ewe". Good can be defined as forgiving, honest, innocent and unsuspecting. The evil contained within Othello called "black ram" is by no means magical or mythical yet is represented by the character Iago.

Work on, My med'cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught, And many worthy and chaste dames even thus, All guiltless, meet reproach. (IV, I, lines 53-56)

Othello finally realizes after being fooled into murder:

"I look down towards his feet -- but that's a fable If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee" (V, II, Lines 333-334)

He couldn't handle the anguish of knowing he had murdered in jealousy rather for justice. He carried out his sentence, by taking a knife and stabbing himself. He then said:

"I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss" (V, ii, line 413-414).

Othello was jealous. He thought his wife was cheating on him and he thought he was killing for justice. He said that he loved not wisely but too well. It was not very smart of him to believe another man about something he should know more about. This is why I think of Othello as a tragic hero in this play. His character was brought to light of a horrible situation by a deceitful devil named Iago.

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