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Othello has been called ‘the least heroic of tragic heroes’.

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Introduction

Othello has been called 'the least heroic of tragic heroes'. How far do you agree with this view? In your answer you should: * Make detailed reference to Shakespeare's handling of character, narrative development, setting and language. * Give your own response to the view expressed and consider the possibility of other views. * Show an understanding of Elizabethan attitudes to honour and an awareness of Shakespearian tragedy. Between 1599 and 1608 Shakespeare wrote a series of plays containing protagonists that were undeniably both 'heroic' and 'tragic'. In Othello, like his three other renowned tragedies - Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear -Shakespeare, whether intentionally or not, casts Othello's good side almost solely in the first half of the play and goes on to portray his bad side in the second. Othello's status as a tragic hero must be measured taking into account the events surrounding his eventual demise inclusive of Iago's betrayal and his consequential actions. Many critics have praised either Hamlet or King Lear as his greatest tragedy while simultaneously recognising Othello as a better plot, with better characters and making for a more exciting play. As will emerge, there are reasons for this reluctance to recognize Othello as Shakespeare's supreme masterpiece in tragedy, and also reasons on the other side. . Primarily the terms 'heroic' and 'tragic', and hence 'tragic hero', can hold a number of definitions. ...read more.

Middle

Cuckold me!". He goes on to call his 'treasured' Desdemona 'Devil' (4.1.239) and goes on to strike her in a public display of violence - ironic considering that Cassio was previously demoted for such an act. It could be argued that Shakespeare has no real intent to make Othello a 'tragic hero' as he does not give him the sufficient soliloquy or monologue with the audience that Iago revels in. Through these passages he is able to tell the story from both aspects and thereby appear foreign to his actions as he reflects on them logically and with no bias. He is also blessed with endearing traits such as a quick wit; "if she be black and thereto have a wit, she'll find a white that shall her blackness fit". It is also recognized that he may be based on the traditional 'clever slave of classical comedy' and modelled on Lorenzo of 'The Spanish Tragedy'. After all, if the audience are indeed to believe Iago's words completely then his actions are not without cause if Othello has 'cuckolded' him. "It is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets he's done my office." It is not only the scale of transformation that shocks both the audience and the other characters but the speed at which it occurs as well. "Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee! ...read more.

Conclusion

In the very first act there is a distinct theme of racism as Iago and Roderigo let their true feelings be known as they discuss Othello: "And I - God bless the mark, His moorship's ancient!" This is clearly sarcastic with the deliberate intent of mocking he of the 'thick lips' and Roderigo responds, "By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman". He also displays his naivety, which could be perceived as a fatal flaw, as he insists on calling Iago 'honest ' persistently throughout the play. In conclusion I believe there to no definite answer although in a pure comparison to Shakespeare's other four great tragedies I feel Othello to be the 'least tragic'. One of the crucial factors in deciding if Othello is to be determined a tragic hero is how you interpret Iago and Othello's actions. If you believe that Iago forces Othello to his downfall as opposed to just pushing him towards it then this qualifies him as heroic as it is merely his trust and jealousy which result in his demise. Personally I feel Iago's character lies between pure evil and a comical narrator. The most obvious factor that makes this question near impossible to answer is that it effectively deals with two characters - one in the first half of the play and one in the second. Needless to say it is the Othello of the first half that inspires the belief of heroic status and it is the Othello of the second half that does not. 1 ...read more.

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