• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

In what ways does Shakespeare present Othello as a typical tragic hero?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In what ways does Shakespeare present Othello as a typical tragic hero? The importance that the main character of Othello holds in this play cannot be underestimated. He is presented as the man who seems to have had everything, and then lost it all through a series of events with twists and turns, a victim of the cruel manipulation of the villain Iago. Or did Othello have himself to blame for the way he was deceived? One thing is certain, the drama's driving narrative is focused on Othello and the audience is shown the complete breakdown and disintegration of his character from noble hero to misguided victim. Othello's character fits all the criteria for the original tragic hero. In these criteria, the tragic hero has both good and evil traits, and is neither one nor the other. Othello is a play about opposites and opposition, and the many contradictions contained in the play are embodied in the tragic hero. In the first Act, Othello is presented as noble and heroic. He holds a senior rank position, uses eloquent and beautiful language and exotic, expanded imagery. In talking about how he wooed Desdemona, he speaks of "antres vast and deserts idle, Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven". ...read more.

Middle

He accepts Iago's explanation too easily and he is too trusting: "Now do I see tis true" (3.3.442). Othello becomes a "barely human state". His use of language changes dramatically. His speech resembles more that of Iago, with brutal, crude animalistic imagery. He shows this particularly in addressing Desdemona: "Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile" (4.1.240) and in his random curses and oaths, "Goats and monkeys!"(240), and "O devil, devil!"(230). As Othello becomes more and more jealous there is also severely impaired speech on his part. His sentences become shorter and more broken up. There are interruptions to the flow of sentences and this reflects his state of mind. There is repetition of certain words such as his fixation with the handkerchief. This suggests that he is only becoming more and more irrational, obsessive and conflicted. Othello uses antithesis in mentioning heaven and the devils in the same phrases, 4.2.36 and saying things such as the nonsensical "Heaven truly knows...thou art false as hell". In looking again at how he falls into the category of the tragic hero, the question is raised of what brings him down and what could cause Othello to gain or to lose sympathy from the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is very much punished as Iago cruelly addresses him as a cuckold. He suffers due to his pride, and gains audience sympathy for that. At the end of the century Swinburne argued that Othello must be seen as a truly noble hero, "The noblest man of man's making." Other critics such as F.R Leavis have suggested that Othello's readiness to believe Iago is a sign that the hero is na�ve and lacking in intelligence and that this contributes to the tragedy. He is not only out of his depth in love but is also, because of his background, unable to comprehend the society he has married into; this suggests that Othello is a noble savage. Leavis said that Othello possesses a weak character which is sorely tested by marriage, "the stuff of which he is made begins at once to deteriorate and show itself unfit". I am inclined to agree with Leavis's harsher view, because it really is such a huge mistake on Othello's part to murder his faultless wife that I feel there is almost no excuse, and even if Desdemona was unfaithful a punishment of death is too strong. 1,579 words ?? ?? ?? ?? Lea West English Literature - Othello ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Othello section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a star student thought of this essay

3 star(s)

Response to the question

The essay responds at an average level to the task. There is an exploration of how Othello falls from nobility to a misguided victim. However, I don't think the argument is sharp enough in regards to the question. Examiners are ...

Read full review

Response to the question

The essay responds at an average level to the task. There is an exploration of how Othello falls from nobility to a misguided victim. However, I don't think the argument is sharp enough in regards to the question. Examiners are looking for a discussion of what a tragic hero is, and from that an argument which sticks to a clear definition. The introduction here says that Othello has many of the traits of a tragic hero, but there is no explanation of what constitutes this status. The argument seems contradictory, saying that Othello becomes a victim before his death, yet still claims he is a tragic hero. It would've been better if the essay had stated that "it could be argued Othello is a victim" and then explored how critics see him as anything but a tragic hero. A discussion of Iago's influence on Othello's tragedy would've been useful here.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is good. The language of Othello is explored thoroughly, and the essay comments how Shakespeare presents him as royal by his speech. I'm not a big fan of the way this essay writes as if Othello is real. Sentences such as "Othello appears to have an enormous capacity for love and loving others." add little to the argument other than retelling the story. It is much stronger to write about Shakespeare's constructions, for example saying "Shakespeare presents Othello as loving at the beginning of the play". It is essential when talking about tragedy that you make reference to the structure of the play, looking at how elements change. Simply saying that Othello is loving does not make clear as to why that makes him a tragic hero. The penultimate paragraph is strong, looking at a critical view of the play. Being able to include other interpretation is a skill examiners are looking for, and being able to weave them into the argument is great. I feel this paragraph would be more relevant at the beginning of the essay, setting up a number of points which either support or disregard the thought. I would've liked more theatrical devices to be explored here. Othello is significant that he has no soliloquies until the last scene, and this is in contrast to many of Shakespeare's tragic heroes. Examiners will want to see you understand the significance of the text as a subset of the dramatic genre, and by analysing theatrical techniques you are showing this awareness.

Quality of writing

The essay has an okay structure. There is an introduction, but as mentioned above the argument is ambiguous. Points are not logically laid out, and I think this is because there isn't a clear definition of a tragic hero. If tragic hero was defined in the introduction, with three key traits and conventions, then it would be easy to have a paragraph proving whether each is f. Critical interpretations appear at the end, which are great, but these need to be weaved into the analysis when the relevant points are made. It is much stronger to say "it could be argued" and then say "however, this argument is less strong" by continuing with your argument. Rhetorical questions such as "Or did Othello have himself to blame for the way he was deceived?" should not be included, as you should not be trying to provoke an emotional response. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are fine.


Did you find this review helpful? Join our team of reviewers and help other students learn

Reviewed by groat 23/04/2012

Read less
Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Othello essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Male Domination In Othello

    4 star(s)

    This is clearly the case for the fact that he could say it while talking to her father. Desdemona on the other hand, like almost every other woman in the Elizabethan period seems to have accepted the convention that women are inferior to men and are the properties of either her father or husband.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the ways in which Iago destroys the relationship between Desdemona and Othello

    4 star(s)

    This is shows the extent to which Othello trusts Iago and has been taken in by him. The handkerchief which is the main object used to destroy the relationship between Othello and Desdemona is first mentioned in Act 3 Scene 3.

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How significant are Iagos soliloquies to the development of tragedy in Othello?

    3 star(s)

    Shakespeare thus evokes catharsis for Othello after stabbing himself as the audience have watched Iago manipulate him with little motive. It may be argued that the audience shouldn't feel catharsis for Othello after having murdered innocent Desdemona, yet it is key that Iago has poisoned Othello's mind.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Is Othello a Noble Hero or a Credulous Fool?

    3 star(s)

    However, he is regularly foolish. Part of the reason however, that he is so heroic is because of his foolishness. His trust makes him vulnerable. When Iago gives Cassio the handkerchief of Desdemona, Othello doesn't think to question whether this was proof of her disloyalty.

  1. To what extent is Othello considered a tragic hero?

    As a result this makes Othello a good tragic hero. Othello's hubris also makes him a tragic hero; Othello believes that by killing Desdemona and himself he will save his pride. He reassures himself that what he is doing is right by saying, "yet she must die, else she'l betray more men."

  2. An Exploration of Imagery in Othello

    as his impression on him grows stronger, Iago's growing influence on Othello is due to his clever manipulation of situations such as planting the handkerchief on Cassio. Othello laments to Desdemona as he interrogates her about her supposed infidelity how his 'life fountain' is now for 'foul toads to knot and gender in' (Act 4, Scene 2, lines 60-6 1).

  1. How does Shakespeare present Iago?

    Something which we would expect to be positive is, in fact, a terrible aberration like Iago who himself is unnatural. Shakespeare has Othello become lost in the storm just as he also becomes lost in his own mind when he bends to Iago's will.

  2. To what extent do you agree that the character Othello is responsible for his ...

    also expressed though Shakespeare?s use of dramatic irony as Othello claims the native Iago is ?of exceeding honesty And knows all quality with a learned spirit of human dealings,? oblivious to the prospect of this ?knowledge? being used against him, causing him to rely on Iago?s word over Desdemona?s and his own better judgement.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work