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To what extent does Shakespeare present Othello as responsible for his own downfall?

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Introduction

´╗┐To what extent does Shakespeare present Othello as responsible for his own downfall? The character of Othello can be viewed in relation to the theories of tragedy described in Aristotle?s Poetics, with specific reference to the categories of hamartia and hubris. Additionally, it could be considered that his high-status conforms to Aristotle?s emphasis on such characters. Consequently, the murders that occur at the end of the play reveal the extent to which his noble character has fallen. At the same time, it is clear that other factors intervene, such as the machinations of Iago and the effects of chance. This combination of influences and attributes is characteristic of Jacobean tragedy as a whole. This is perhaps best exemplified in the opening pages of Othello where Brabantio claims ?This accident is not unlike my dream?, (I. i) clearly suggesting an inevitable foreshadowing of the events to come. This view is not synonymous with the aspect of the Aristotelian model which prescribes the hamartia of the tragic hero at the epicentre of the reasons for his downfall. To analyse Othello?s role in his own downfall, the height from which he falls, both socially and emotionally, should be considered. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare frequently refers to Othello as a ?moor?. Although it was not uncommon for foreigners to hold positions of power in the Venetian courts, and indeed the concept of ?racism? was hardly established, it is clear that quotations such as ?old, black ram? refers to the colour of Othello?s skin and further hints at the suspicion of witchcraft. This view could not be presented without reference to Othello?s bitter exclamation ?O, blood, blood, blood? (III. iii) that reveals Shakespeare?s allusion to a practising of the ?dark arts?. It is difficult to be sure in this instance whether Shakespeare intends to comment on people?s misconceptions of race or to suggest allusions to Othello?s sinister and dangerous traits that allow him to be so successful in the field of war, but which are also the foundation of his un-doing. There are significant arguments to contradict the latter view as, throughout the play, there are clear references to Othello?s transparent nature, such as his pledge in Act 1 to deliver ?a round, unvarnished tale?. (I. iii) If this interpretation is to be accepted, there should be less focus on the ?inner evil? within Othello, that allows him to murder his adoring wife than on his naivety within the culture of Venetian society. ...read more.

Conclusion

Othello?s role in his own downfall cannot be entirely explained on grounds of his naivety. Othello?s hubris and concern for his outward image add hugely to the emotions of jealousy and paranoia that Iago intends to provoke within him. It could be suggested that this sense of pride is an element of his cultural background and personal history as a ?warrior?. However this flaw is unique to him throughout the play and from this it could be concluded Shakespeare intends to mark it as a reason for his demise. There is perhaps no better quotation to support this view than ?O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial?. (II. iii) Although the impact of the above quotation is undeniably positive in terms of our view of Othello, it could be argued that the intense commitment to the idea of reputation has considerable negative implications. It is undoubtedly portrayed here that he would have guarded his reputation over his love of Desdemona as he regards it as the single most important thing in his life. According to this view, Iago is little more than a catalyst in Othello?s fall and it can then be argued that the description of Iago as a ?demi-devil? (IIIII. ii) accurately reflects the limitations of his responsibility in the downfall of Othello. ...read more.

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