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Shakespeare’s play “Othello” is a vivid manifestation of the fall of the tragic hero. The Moor Othello experiences the deceitful actions of the Venetian army general Iago. Because Iago lost the coveted position of lieutenant Othello to another soldier Cassio, he plans his revenge. Iago’s deliberations, reasoning and misunderstandings lead Othello to kill Desdemona, his thought to be unfaithful wife. Recognizing his manipulation by Iago, Othello commits suicide out of grief, which is his ultimate downfall. A tragic hero is a person who possesses heroic traits or has a noble origin. Such a hero equally suffers severely and fights against his own destiny. Othello fulfills these criteria of a tragic hero, such as a high status in his surroundings and proximity to the audience. Othello’s actions and commands that he carries out, trying to achieve the death of his wife and Cassio, are such that they disclose the issue of jealousy. Shakespeare’s play illustrates the danger of jealousy and exposes its ruinous nature.
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Othello as an apt personification of the tragic hero
Othello is a striking example of those characteristics that are identified with the tragic hero. As follows, Othello has a dominant noble position and status among the people surrounding him. His abilities as a general and commander of the Venetian army make him highly essential to society. However, Othello’s uncertainties are manifested through his race. This flaw in Othello connects him to the audience on a close level. The audience sees that Othello is heroic and great, but his imperfections shine through, bringing him approachable as a human being. Above all, another feature of the tragic hero is manifested in Othello’s fatal flaw — self-doubt. This fatal flaw allows Iago to employ his manipulative strategies against Othello to gain revenge, despite Cassio’s position. As a consequence of Othello’s free will, his unfortunate predestination is equivalent to the crime he commits by murdering his wife. On the other hand, Othello’s death is not an appalling waste. Although time is running out, Othello is aware of the manipulation he has suffered, before his death he states: “one that lov ‘d not wisely but too well” (V.ii.3711). In this way, the tragic hero finds contentment in discovery and broadens his consciousness.
Iago’s deception that he imposes on Othello, that his wife Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair is merely an unjustified accusation that rules Othello’s mind during the whole play, influencing his self-image as well as his pride. Considering that racism is a crucial element in Shakespeare’s work, interracial relationships were unheard of during this time span. Othello’s standing as a general allows him to increase his dignity, not only as a racial underdog, but also as the one who has sought Desdemona’s love. In this there is a deep impression that Othello considers himself unworthy and unequal to Desdemona, a woman of noble origin. In addition, Othello is quite skillful with language. For instance, Othello persecutes Desdemona and her father by telling the Duke: “Her father loved me, oft invited me, Still questioned me the story of my life From year to year” (I.ii.473-475). Hence, Othello fascinates the audience, as evidenced by the Duke’s reaction: “I think this tale would win my daughter too” (I.ii.516). Regardless of his appeals, when Othello learns that Desdemona has engaged in adultery, he conforms to the role of a wounded-hearted lover. In general, this sense of betrayal plunges deeper, damaging his already impaired self-image and dignity.
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Obviously, Othello’s behaviors and attitudes portrayed in the play display various facets of jealousy. Shakespeare’s Othello highlights the dangers of jealousy. The play depicts how jealousy feeds on claims that can be easily refuted. Therefore, it leads to the ruination of many lives, including that of the tragic hero himself. It is clearly evident that jealousy is a behavioral driver throughout the plot. To be specific, the play starts against the backdrop of Iago’s jealous behavior towards Cassio. Iago’s distorted actions allude to the origin of his jealousy, implying that he takes revenge on the people around him and is least dissatisfied with the lives he destroys. As the play unfolds, both the tragic hero and Iago’s jealous behavior evolve. Othello’s Moorish culture makes him inexpressive in comparison to other Venetians, which leads to the idea that his jealousy is groundless. Notably, Shakespeare shows the unboundedness of jealousy throughout the play as a consequence of the tragic hero’s tragic flaw, which is a psychological problem. Othello’s actions and behavior, which he commits in jealousy, are not the source of a rational act of jealousy.
In summary, William Shakespeare’s Othello is a perfect depiction of a tragic hero. Othello’s manipulations expose his inner self, demonstrating his fatal flaw of self-doubt and jealousy. However, to evoke this ruinous motive, Iago also embodies the primary source of the tragic hero’s relationship with the problem of jealousy. Ultimately, representing the features of the tragic hero, Othello’s ignominious death is the outcome of his nature in responding to various expressions of jealousy such as marital mistrust and rivalry.