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Tracing His Progress Throughout The Play, Examine Othello's Presentation as 'Tragic Hero.'

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__________________________________________________________Christina Hardinge Tracing His Progress Throughout The Play, Examine Othello's Presentation as 'Tragic Hero.' There are many definitions of a 'tragedy' and Aristotle's is most accurate for 'Othello': "A play inspiring fear and pity in which the protagonist moves from the highest point to the lowest." This is so in 'Othello' as the eponymous protagonist moves from the savior of the state to a mentally disturbed suicidal murderer. The traditional mould of the Shakespearean tragic hero understands and accepts his tragic fate. However, Othello reacts differently. Othello was the first Black character in English literature causing an immediate impact on audiences. Shakespeare knew many Elizabethan's would be prejudiced and associate Othello with brutality, ignorance, evil and sexual immorality; the qualities of a 'Blackman.' This is mainly reflected through the characters Iago and Roderigo in the opening scene. We do not meet Othello until the second scene, a technique used in many of Shakespeare's tragedies as an effective theatrical device which builds suspense for the protagonist's first entrance. We learn of a strong negative impression towards him which will confirm the Elizabethans original thoughts. Stereotyped as 'black', Othello is expected to practice magic and be connected with evil, which is portrayed by Iago and Roderigo as they patronizingly nickname him, "The Devil," "His Moorship," "Thicklips," "Old black ram," and "Barbary horse"; and Arabian through bred, a reference designed to evoke Othello's Barbarism. ...read more.


In Othello's first soliloquy he proves he has immense trust in Iago; "This fellow is of exceeding honesty." This is also shown, as Othello's certainty of his trust in Desdemona is set against his faith in Iago; "My life upon her faith: honest Iago." "I think my wife be honest, and think she is not / I think that thou art just, and think thou art not..." This is the point Othello chooses whether to place his trust in Iago over Desdemona, torn between suspicion and loyalty, trying to determine the truth. However, Othello misplaces his trust into Iago. At the end of the play, Othello's obsession with Desdemona's "unloyalty" is so overwhelming that he sees killing her the only way to achieve "justice." He is angry when she denies any wrongdoing because "thou...makest me call what I intend to do / A murder, which I thought a sacrifice." However, Othello's imagery is somewhat contradictory, compounded of both love and the desire to damn evil. Desdemona's skin is "smooth as monumental alabaster," she is "rose," and her "balmy breath," almost persuades him to abandon his act. However, his jealousy, mistrust and pride in Iago all cause him to put his love a side. Like Hamlet and King Lear, Othello realizes too late that his fate is to become the instrument of his own destruction; "An honorable murderer if you will: / For nought did I in hate, but all in honour." ...read more.


His question proves that he recognises his wife's honour, not his own and when we realise Othello has "another weapon in this chamber," we know that he will use it on himself, and inflict the punishment he deserves in an act of an honourable suicide. Othello is lost: he has no wife or profession to sustain him. It is significant that he now prepares to use the weapon he has used to kill others on himself: he takes control of his own fate as he used to determine the fates of enemies. The hero sees himself in a new and reduced light. He speaks of his 'little arm' and describes the 'impediments' he has made his way through on the battlefield not so much to boast, but to show that he knows he is diminished. Other lines suggest this too; he is as he says at his "journey's end". This phrase suggests Othello's weariness, as does the line, "but a rush against Othello's breast" and he dies declaring his love for Desdemona with a kiss. Othello's suicide maybe interpreted as the only courageous soldierly option open to him, or that in his despair he escapes into death because his spirit is broken. In his death Othello seems to regain some of his earlier nobility and regains a clearer, saner perspective on the word, only when it is too late. ...read more.

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