Othello – A Tragic Hero

Othello befits as a tragic hero in Shakespeare’s play; Othello. Firstly, he holds an important role – and is nobly born. He is well respected and admired by all. Secondly, through a ‘fatal flaw’ and the devious plans of Iago directed towards him, he suffers a dramatic fall from grace. Hence, he loses his wife, his status, his dignity and position, and the respect held by others of him. Finally, he comes to know that Iago was the mastermind behind his tragic downfall and his blind trust on Iago caused all his miseries. Unfortunately, by the time he discovers the truth he has already murdered Desdemona and he himself commits a suicide out of regret. Othello himself is the architect of his tragic downfall. His life is ruined by jealousy and excessive pride.

Othello is a general in the Venetian army. He is respected and honoured by the Venetians for his achievements in the battlefield. He is considered an honest and noble general. He is fearless and a trustworthy general. He is referred to as “Valiant Othello” and “The brave Moor” by the Duke and the Senator of Venice. He is appointed, by the mutual consent of the senators, the new governor of Cyprus. He is a tactful and a wise man. When Brabantio attempts to arrest him and swords are drawn on both sides, Othello prevents a possible brawl and says “Keep up your bright sword, for the dew will rust them” and suggests Brabantio resolve the issue peacefully. He is also proud of his achievements and services that he has done for the state. He is confident that “his services shall out-tongue” Brabantio’s complaints against him. He is respected and held in high esteem by everyone. Even Iago, who hates him and conspires against him throughout the play describes him as “a constant, loving noble nature”. Othello is also an eloquent speaker which he nevertheless denies “Rude am I in my speech”. Othello is reputed to be a courageous and a truthful man.

Despite possessing all these noble characteristics, Othello has a ‘tragic flaw’ of jealousy. Jealousy is a trait of his personality that appears to undo Othello. Iago creates the chain of events that sparks jealousy in Othello, and eventually leads to his dreadful downfall. In Othello, Shakespeare describes the tragic decline of a man who, in a fit of jealous rage, ruins what he loves best. The marriage between Othello and Desdemona is a true love based on a mutual knowledge and valuing of each other’s worth. The love of Othello and Desdemona overcomes the barriers of colour, race and age. As soon as jealousy enters into the mind of Othello, his marriage is destroyed. His naivety and gullibility also proves to be costly for him and pave the way for his downfall. Iago cunningly exploits Othello’s naivety and sets him down the spiral of jealousy. In Act 3, Scene 3, Iago convinces Othello easily that Desdemona has deceived him as she had not hesitated to hoodwink her own father with deceit “She did deceive her father, marrying you”. Othello blindly accepts the false accusations and even feels indebted to Iago for his friendship and honesty “I’m indebted to you forever.” Othello does not attempt to approach Cassio to confirm his doubt and does not give Desdemona a chance to prove her chastity.

Othello’s excessive pride is another of his shortcomings. His sinful pride makes him a vulnerable character to be manipulated by Iago. If he had not been so proud, he might have talked to Desdemona about her affair with Cassio and resolved the issue. He is so proud that he thinks everyone is submissive and loyal to him. He believes that a man with a damaged pride is no longer a man but a monster. Desdemona has made him a monster by cheating on him “A horned man is a monster and a beast.” He lets the pride get the best of him, and this influences his judgment to a degree that he actually ends up murdering Desdemona.

Like other tragic heroes, Othello also eventually realizes that the misfortune that befell him was caused by his own jealousy and sinful pride.  He discovers that he was wrong in believing everything Iago said and regrets the way he was compelled to act. He discovers the true story about the handkerchief and perceives Iago’s lies. He heard the truth from Desdemona but did not trust her. Unfortunately by the time he realizes the truth, he has already murdered Desdemona. He regrets his actions and attempts to alleviate others’ anger towards him by claiming that he was not jealous but ‘wrought’ and “Perplexed in the extreme”.  Finally, he commits suicide as he cannot live with the fact that he has murdered his loyal wife.

In conclusion, Othello’s rise to prominence and his tragic downfall are caused by no one but himself. He wins the hearts of every Venetians through his bravery, honesty and noble character and in return he is rewarded with the post of an army general. Similarly, he himself is the architect of his downfall. His jealousy and sinful pride set him on the spiral of miseries and misfortunes. It is in his own hands that his fate rests. He suffers a miserable downfall and is made a tragic hero by his jealousy and excessive pride.