Tragedy involves the downfall of a hero as a result of his tragic flaw. How true is this?
It is not simply the existence of a tragic flaw that is the sole causation of the demise of the hero and other significant characters but rather the interplay between the negative externalities and the hero’s actions as a result of his tragic flaws which does so. In Shakespeare’s Elizabethan tragedy Othello, Othello’s hamartia arises from a magnified sense of jealousy, hubris and misplaced trust brought about directly by Iago’s diabolical intellect and a growing sense of insecurity. It is these uncontrollable factors in conjunction with Othello’s tragic flaws that assist in his collapse from respected general to deluded murderer.
The complex interactions between the protagonists of the play as well as strong characterisation allow for the emergence of one of Othello’s fatal flaws, misplaced trust. The Machiavellian character of Iago perpetuates the tragedy of the play by provoking hamartia within Othello. As soon as the play commences dramatic irony allows us to realise that Othello has labelled Iago, whom we know to be “Janus-faced” and deceptive, “I am not what I am”, as “a man of exceeding honesty”. The constant declarations of Iago that he “hates the moor” are juxtaposed with the repeated description of an “honest Iago” in order to build up empathy for Othello. Iago’s ability to take advantage of people’s flaws and situations when they arise also allows him to manipulate Othello’s, “free and open nature” through the “pour[ing] pestilence into the ear of the Moor” and provide evidence through the planting of Desdemona’s handkerchief , a symbol of the love between Othello and Desdemona, in “Cassio’s lodgings”. His use of innuendo, “note if your lady strain his entertainment…much will be seen in that” and bestial imagery and similes, “were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkey” enrage Othello and spur him to condemn Desdemona as a “fair devil”. Iago’s deceitful...
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