Othello—Othello is a noble soldier, General of the Venetian army and well-respected as a mercenary in Venice. This respect does not extend to his other capacities as a man, particularly those of a suitable suitor for the daughter of a Venetian gentleman like Brabantio. Othello is quite separate from the civilized Europeans, not only because he is a Moor but also because he has lived a rather uncivilized life as a slave, soldier, wanderer and mercenary. That he has risen to an exalted position is due to his skills in battle. That he has converted to the religion of the Venetians and developed a most eloquent tongue, used to good effect in the first Act is, however, of little note: he is admired as a friend but unwanted as a son-in-law by Brabantio, hated by Iago, and somewhat self-conscious of his elopement with Desdemona.

Othello’s great flaw at the beginning of the play is his willingness to subvert the established order of Venice: He weds Desdemona without securing her father’s permission. He is old enough to know better, but he is unconcerned with the fallout, precluding that his own good deeds should suffice to keep public opinion in his favor. He is apparently willing to lose the respect of Brabantio. In spite of this flaw, Othello is still a great man—self-possessed, calm, deliberate, peaceful when necessary, and valiant.

His other flaw, which grows until it swallows him completely, is his irrational jealousy. It stems from his unbalanced view of love, which swings from a vision of too-spiritualized romance to a vision of too-carnal appetite. He fails to strike the right chord and thus becomes easy prey for Iago.

Sign up to continue reading Othello >

Essays About Othello