William deserved. His punishment exceeds the crime, keeping

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William Shakespeare’s “Othello” presents all of the elements of a
great tragedy, according to Aristotle’s definition: “A tragedy is the
imitation in dramatic form of an action that is serious and complete, with
incidents arousing pity and fear wherewith it effects a catharsis of such
emotions” (Poetics 14) He also adds, “The language used is pleasurable
and throughout, appropriate to the situation in which it is used.” The
central features of the Aristotelian archetype are manifested in General
Othello’s character. Although Othello is great, he is not perfect. He has a
tragic flaw, hubris (excessive pride and passion), and hamartia (some error),
which lead to his downfall. However, Othello’s misfortune is not wholly
deserved. His punishment exceeds the crime, keeping him admirable in the
theatergoer’s eyes. Before Othello’s tragic flaw results in his unfortunate
death, he has increased awareness and gained self-knowledge or, as Aristotle
describes it “has experienced a discovery.” (Poetics 15) All of this
produces a catharsis or emotional release at the end of the play. A tragedy,
when well performed, does not leave an audience in a state of depression but
creates a shared, common experience. What causes Othello’s downfall? Some
critics claim that Othello’s tragic flaw is his jealousy while others insist
that jealousy is not part of his character, that the emotion takes over only
when Iago pushes him to the brink of insanity. Evidence in the play supports the
notion of insanity. Othello doesn’t show himself to be jealous early in the
play. It is not until Othello is manipulated by Iago’s skillful lies that he is
forced to confront his jealousy and mistrust. His love and trust of Iago serve
to prove his gullibility, Jealousy and self-doubt poison his sensibilities and
innocence, and the realization of his blind trust leads to his sorrowful end. As
with most of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, Othello possesses all the virtues
prescribed for the character type. He is of noble birth; he is self-controlled;
he is religious; he has the respect of his men; and he demonstrates excellent
leadership. His magnetism is what draws Venetian senators and soldiers alike and
what captivates Desdemona. All of this supports the idea that he is not (at the
play’s opening) a jealous, enraged, or mad man. He has convincing self-esteem
which he later loses to the deception of Iago’s evil ploy. It can be noted that
Othello’s character flaw is his blind trust and naivet. These character traits
contribute to his misled downfall. It would be neglectful, if not irresponsible,
to overlook Iago’s role in the play. His hate for Othello and Cassio drives his
evil motive through a string of lies affecting the entire cast. From the first
act, the antagonist is troubled: I know my price, I am worth no worse a place.

But he (as loving his own pride and purposes) Evades them with a bumbast
circumstance Horribly stuff’d epithites of war, And in conclusion, Nonsuits my
mediators; for, “Certes,” says he, “I have already chose my
officer.” And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician, One Michael
Cassio, a Florentine (A fellow almost damn’d in a fair wife), That never set a
squadron in the field, Nor the division of a battle knows (Othello. I.i.11-23)
Iago never reveals his dissatisfaction with the military arrangement to Othello.

Instead, he makes use of Othello’s innocence and trust to satisfy his wicked
end. He constantly boasts of his love for Othello and patronizes him regularly
throughout the play. At Iago’s first attempt to instill jealousy in the trusting
Othello, he is successful. Othello’s concern at Iago’s implications entices him
to learn more. Iago plays a verbal game with Othello to arouse suspicion. This
piques Othello’s interest and starts his mind to wonder. Iago is successful at
the point he proclaims, O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-ey’d
monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss Who,
certain of his fate, loves not his wronger; But O, what damned minutes tells he
o’er Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strongly loves! (Othello.

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III.iii.163-168) One of the major qualities that comes to mind when assessing
Othello is his trustfulness. He claims that Iago is a man of honesty and trust;
“To his conveyance I assign my wife” (I.iii.286). Othello has no
reason to distrust Iago at this point. Time after time, Othello fails to see
through Iago’s deceptions. Iago is a military man; Othello is familiar dealing
with soldiers and men he trusts and, moreover, Iago has a widespread reputation
for honesty. Othello

Categories: Emotions


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