If one reads Shakespeare's Othello, they can come to the conclusion that it might be one of the his most tragic plays ever written by Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, is probably the most famous of his tragic plays, but Othello, has characteristics that, I think make it even more tragic then his other plays, and therefore for that reason, you can say that Othello is the most tragic hero.
Othello is a noble man, one who has grace with the ladies but also possesses all the virtues of a military leader that he is. He is a general that is experienced in battle. He has shown that he is reliable and well known in the military and is well respected. His valiant personality, is what draws people to him, as it does for Desdemona. The senators value him and hear what he says when he speaks. This is shown here by one of the senators. "Here comes Barbantio and the valiant Moor", (Act I scene 3, 47) . This is an example of the many comments which shows Othello's character and personality as a person and an officer. They say he is one of the great leaders.
Not only does he posses great character and courage, but also dignity. He keeps his control even when he is being accused of witchcraft during the first encounter with the senators when Desdemona's father confronts him about see his daughter.
"Most potent, grave, and reverend signors,
My very noble and approved good masters;
That I have ta'en away this old man's daughter,
It is most true; true I have married her.
The very head and front of my offending
Hath the extent, no more. Rude I am in my speech,
And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace;" (I, iii, 91)
This is an example of how Othello deals with style and grace under fire, when he is accused of witch craft, by marrying Desdemona. He neither, yells or screams, but explains in a manner that captivates his audience, and draws them in to listen.
A major sign that Othello shows his rage and jealousy occurs in Act III, scene 3, when Iago is talking with Othello and tells him that Desdemona is a whore. Othello's breakdown, almost to choke Iago, simply asks Iago
"Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore, Be sure if it. Give me the ocular proof. Or by the worth of mine eternal soul, thou hadst been better have been born a dog. Than answer my waked wrath." (Act III, scene 3)
This a point in the play where Iago starts unveil his malicious plan. It makes Othello react, in a manner that he usually does not. Othello has many qualities that contribute to his overall worth. One being his trustfulness. At this point in time, Othello, says that Iago is a man of honor and trust, and therefore has no reason not to distrust him.
Many times Othello does not see the fake and malicious acts of Iago. This is done to extend the play and also add to Othello's tragic flaws. Othello trusts too easily. Othello is used to dealing with military people and on the battle field, a place where you put your life in the hands of others and trust is very important. Iago reputation on the battle field is well known and is not tarnished. With Othello being a military leader for most of his life, trusting another military friend, is not uncommon, and therefore, Othello has no reason not to believe or trust Iago. So it can be said that Othello has a number of tragic flaws, one being trust worthy. It is not to say that being trust worthy is a bad characteristic, but to not trust your own wife?
Othello, tragically, in Act III, scene 3, is thoroughly corrupted by Iago, says that he believes that Desdemona is honest, but yet he thinks that she is not. This is a part that Othello's "innocence" is torn to bits, because he does not know what to believe anymore. This is also where he comes to Iago for advice, which is what Iago has been waiting for.
Othello is seen as a confused man without direction and does know what to do.
"By the world, I think that my wife be honest and think that she is not.
I think that thou art just and think she is not.
Othello then says to Iago:
"Damn her, lewd minx, damn her, damn her!
Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw
To furnish me with some swift means of death
Far that fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant." (Act 3, scene 4, 540)
Here it shows that Othello is now starting to believe Iago. Another time that Iago starts to make Othello believe even more that is wife is unfaithful is when he tells Othello that he has overheard Cassio talking in his sleep about Desdemona and that he has also noticed Cassio wiping his face with the strawberry-embroidered handkerchief, that Othello had given to Desdemona for his first present. This now where Othello is convinced that Desdemona has been unfaithful, and vows revenge against Cassio and Desdemona. It is in this scene that Iago implants the suspicions and jealousy in Othello's head, which tragically bring about the events in the play. It is also here, where Desdemona tries to reconcile the differences between Othello and Cassio, in which Othello sees them together and reinforces the allegations that Iago has made to Othello.
Iago helps by adding the gasoline to the fire when he tells Othello about how Cassio and Desdemona have known each other for some time. Othello is upset and vows revenge.
"Not with vain thanks but with acceptance bounteous,
And will upon the instant pit thee to't
Within these three days let me hear thee say
That Cassio's not alive." (Act III, scene 4)
Iago also reminds Othello that Desdemona has also deceived her father, her own flesh an blood, why not then lie to her husband. Othello then tells Iago that he is bound to him forever for all that he has done for him. It is made clear in this scene that Iago is honest and true man. A man of his word, and for that Othello is forever indebted.
After the events of the loss of the handkerchief, shown clearly is the anger of Othello when he asks Desdemona to produce the handkerchief. When she can not, it is set in his mind that she has been deceitful. It does not help the situation in any way that Desdemona lies about having the handkerchief, it only adds to the fire that burns within Othello's eyes.
Othello's jealousy is the one flaw that brings him down the most. It is not to say that with out Iago instigating all that he has that the situation would have been better. But one can see that jealousy is the knife that stabs himself. Othello is jealous of Desdemona and Cassio, which can be somewhat understandable. It is known that Desdemona and Cassio have known each other for sometime. It is known that Cassio has had a crush on Desdemona for awhile. When Othello asks to see the handkerchief and she can't show it to him, it makes him wonder. When Iago is talking to Cassio about Desdemona, while Othello is listening, he makes him wonder. When Cassio is caught with the handkerchief, it makes Othello wonder. With all of these attributes and events, one can only be jealous of Cassio and Desdemona. Othello has been manipulated in such a way by Iago though, that he won't even believe is own wife. Desdemona pleads with Othello that she has been faithful and has done nothing wrong. It is Othello's jealousy and Iago's malicious manipulating that leads to the death of all of them. Even though Iago is the villain of all villains, Othello's tragic flaw of jealousy, leads to his downfall. Iago manipulates the characters and enrages Othello's fire of jealousy within himself. One can not only look at the villainous plots of Iago, but also look at Othello's impractical train of thought and jealousy. Othello does not reason with anyone except Iago. This is why Iago is the villain of all villains. This is why Othello's jealousy can be said to be his greatest downfall. Over the entire play, not only does Iago become the antogonist that he is, but also Othello's tragic flaw of jealousy leads to his, Iago's and innocent Desdemona. One can see why Othello, might be Shakespeare's most tragic plays.
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