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Human Frailty in Othello

Powerful Essays
Human Frailty in Othello

Tragedy is an intrinsically human concept; tragic heroes are damned by what they themselves do. Othello is not so much felled by the actions of Iago, but by a quality all people possess-- human frailty. Accordingly, Othello is not a victim of consequences, but an active participant in his downfall. He is not merely a vehicle for the machinations of Iago; he had free agency. Othello's deficiencies are: an insecure grasp of Venetian social values; lack of critical intelligence, self-knowledge, and faith in his wife; and finally, insecurity-- these are the qualities that lead to his own downfall.

Othello is the Cultural Other in Venetian society, and while he is very learned, it is probable that he is not fully aware of the social and cultural mores that govern Venice. As a Moor, Othello was reared outside Venice, and thus remains separate and exoticized. Although a great military man, and accepted by the elite of Venice, there is still a foreign-ness to him. The characters in the play, for the most part, call Othello "the Moor" (1. 1. 37, 1. 1. 161, 1. 2. 56). By calling Othello "the Moor," his proper name is taken away and he is left as an object. He is only accepted because of his military prowess, and seems to be used almost as a commodity; he is sent to Cyprus, with little warning--almost at the whim of the Duke. It is only because he is valuable to Venice that he is not punished for marrying the white Desdemona; Brabantio's anger is a clear indication that miscegenation is not an acceptable practice. Therefore, being a stranger to Venetian society, even a vague inkling that he is only a body used to fight may lead to insecurity that only exacerbates the deep-seeded, pre-existing ...

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