The "True Tragedy" Of "Othello" Essay

1435 words - 6 pages

The Tragedy of Othello

There are several essential elements that must be presented in a Shakespearean play in order to classify the piece as a true tragedy. Most importantly the tragedy must have a virtuous, noble protagonist who possesses a flaw, not a character defect, which will ultimately lead to his downfall or death. Another important detail is that the audience will have an emotional catharsis of pity and terror as the events of the play unfold. The work must also embellish language, and the tragedy will be presented as an action with a realistic plot. Shakespeare's Othello brilliantly encompasses all of these essential elements and introduces the world to perhaps the greatest tragic hero of all time, Othello, the Moor of Venice.

The protagonist's fall from grace due to his character flaw is the main idea of a tragedy. Othello's fatal flaw was not a defect in his character, but an excess of one of his many virtues. He was too trusting and naïve and this one flaw combined with Iago's (the antagonist) treacherous lies paved the way for Othello's demise. In the beginning of the play Othello is characterized as a noble general who shares a deep, pure love with his wife, Desdemona. He is an even-tempered man and this can be seen when in Act I, scene ii Iago attempts to turn him against Roderigo, but Othello refuses to be baited. He states to Iago, "Let him [Roderigo] do his spite./ My services which I have done the Signiory / Shall out-tongue his complaints" (I. ii. 17-19). It is hard to imagine Othello as a man who could be led to murder his innocent wife at this point in the play. Being the crafty villain that Iago is though, he consistently and cleverly manipulates the trusting Othello until Othello loses his reason and becomes Iago's puppet. By Act IV Iago is not only able to turn Othello against his wife but suggest that strangulation, not poisoning, is a more befitting death for Othello`s beloved Desdemona. The now disintegrated man that Othello has become replies to this horrible suggestion, "Good, good! The justice of it pleases. Very good!" (IV. i. 189). This statement shows the pinnacle of Othello's tragic fall from grace. However, as the play unfolded it is clear that Othello had been preyed upon by an unbelievably, ingenious archvillian and he was as much of a victim in this tragedy as Desdemona was.

Catharsis is the part of the tragedy where the audience is able to relate to the protagonist and will feel terror at his actions but also pity for the fate that has befallen him. As Othello callously murdered his wife, ignoring her pleas for just one more night of life, it left the audience horrified by his actions. However, when Othello finally realizes, too late, Iago's evil plot and the absolute horror of his actions it is hard not to pity him as he cries, "O cursed, cursed slave! Whip me, ye devils / [ . . . ] / Blow me about in winds! Roast me in sulfur! / Wash me in steep-down...

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