Is Othello a Noble Hero or a Credulous Fool?
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Is Othello a Noble Hero or a Credulous Fool? Othello is in many ways a noble hero, but at the same time he can be foolish. It's difficult to distinguish which one he is, because throughout the play there's evidence that he is both. We cannot deny his heroicness, as he is a black man who thrives in a society dominated by white people - respected by many and a revered lieutenant and soldier. It's also easy to admire him because of his defiance of the typical stereotypes that were associated with black people; savage and uneducated. However, we can see that he is an excellent orator and can often be witty. He is a credulous fool at the same time though, because he shows naivety - lacking any form of cynicism towards Iago's claims, and in the end, he is manipulated into killing his wife and himself. At the opening of the play, we can see that Othello is incredibly noble. Despite criticisms from Brabantio regarding his daughter, Othello is able to show the audience three incredibly noble qualities: his intelligence, his ability to earn respect amongst high authorities, and his unwavering composure amidst rather serious accusations.
Several times through the play, he says 'honest Iago' - which is ironic, because the two words contradict each other in many senses. He also says, amidst Iago's powerful methods of manipulation, 'I do not think but Desdemona's honest'. These qualities are noble as well as heroic, because not only is he trusting, but this also reflects his own honest qualities. When Othello kills Desdemona, we also understand that despite his actions, he kills her for honourable reasons. His actions are not induced by rage, but rather, a strong belief that 'she must die, else she'll betray more men'. Is this not the ultimate heroic act? Othello is obviously, wrong in thinking that Desdemona betrayed him, but his intentions of killing her in order to save the honour and dignity of more men is incredibly heroic. He believes that his actions are justified in order to save others in society. Literary critic A.C. Bradley also contends that Othello is a noble hero. Othello has an Agnorisis at the end (one of Aristotle's four parts to a tragic hero).
However, Othello picks Cassio, who is not Venetian, he is 'a Florentine', who 'never set a squadron in the field'. Othello's decision to make Cassio his lieutenant instead of Iago shows his lack of judgment. Iago has plenty more experience, 'the proof' of which was seen 'at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds', and would be a much better candidate. Iago suggests that the reasons for Othello's selection were 'pride and purposes'. Othello is particularly foolish, because if he had not chosen Cassio, Iago may have not built up the bitter resentment that results in Othello's demise in the first place. Ultimately, Othello is heroic and foolish; noble and credulous. Ironically a lot of his foolishness spurs on the sense of heroicness. His lack of judgment when killing Desdemona may be foolish, but it also shows his dedication to protecting others - thus building the image of a hero. Indeed, his foolishness, coupled with his jealousy, serves as his fatal flaw. He is in many ways a tragic hero, and like other tragic heroes, he makes mistakes. This does not diminish however, his heroic qualities. By the end of the play, Othello recognises and repents for his mistakes. And in this sense, he is truly a noble hero.
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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This is a well-structured essay which contains the makings of some thoughtful arguments. Generally expression is fluent and concise. However, the arguments made are not backed by sufficient or always relevant textual references and analysis which weakens the overall effect.
Marked by teacher Roz Shipway 07/02/2012
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