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"Othello suffers acutely and engages our full sympathy." Is Othello a tragic hero?

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Introduction

"Othello suffers acutely and engages our full sympathy." Is Othello a tragic hero? "Killing myself, to die upon a kiss." Othello's death brings a sense of justice to the play, one of the main forms and conventions of a tragedy. But if 'Othello' is a tragedy then Othello must be a tragic hero. Traditionally a tragedy follows the downfall of an individual who is usually high up in society (such as a king). This downfall is triggered by a fatal flaw in the tragic hero's character. During the play the audience must have many different feelings towards the hero, from respect to anger and maybe even pity. These may also turn to terror, as people close to the hero are hurt. Fate is seen to be predetermined and ensures that justice is seen to be done, which always means the death of the hero. Before the tragic hero dies they will learn the truth of their situation and make some attempt to amend the wrongs committed. These forms and conventions were first chartered by Aristotle and were always used by him and other writers in tragedies. Shakespeare however did not always stick to these conventions and would often change them to suit his literary needs. In this essay I will chart the development of Othello's character, to establish whether or not Othello is a tragic hero. ...read more.

Middle

If Othello is a tragic hero then he has to fall sometime and the first slip we see is when he takes Desdemona with him to Cyprus. In doing this he is trying to combine his political and private lives. This means that his mind is not always on the job in hand. Although he says that he will not let his "distorts corrupt and taint his business" this is clearly not the case. By taking his wife to Cyprus with him Othello is making it easy for Iago to manipulate him as he can now set Desdemona up as he needs her. This would have been difficult to do if she was still in Venice. The lack of judgement ensures the tragedy will happen. With both innocent Desdemona and arrogant Cassio in Cyprus together Iago has everyone were he wants them in order to further manipulate Othello's fatal flaw, jealousy. Iago's grasp on Othello is strong and as he feeds his imagination with obscene visions of Desdemona " naked in bed with her friend," Othello grows more and more crude and savage like his 'honest' friend Iago. As a result of this change of character the audience grows afraid of Othello as people close to him like Desdemona are at risk of getting hurt. ...read more.

Conclusion

In doing this Othello regains some honour and justice is finally seen to be done. After following Othello through the play and studying whether or not he is a tragic hero we can see that he fills all the forms and conventions of a tragic hero. He starts high and falls quickly, he has a fatal flaw (namely jealousy), he murders someone close to him (his wife) and finally realises he got everything wrong and so commits suicide. However, there are a couple of characteristics that make him stand out from your crowd of usual tragic hero's, the first and probably most noticeable is that he is black. Othello was the first main character in any of Shakespeare's plays who was black and this would have seemed extremely unusual to the Elizabethan audience at the time. Also he was only a noble man, before this tragic heroes had always been kings. From this we can conclude that Othello is a tragic hero, but what if Shakespeare had not intended Othello to the tragic hero? We have already seen how he breaks the rules to suit his needs. Shakespeare could have intended someone else to be the hero, Desdemona for example. Daughter of a Venetian senator, leaving her father for Othello could have been what killed him and her faithful dying words to Emilia and her husband mean she dies an honourable woman. She fills just as many of the forms and conventions as Othello. 4 1 ...read more.

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