The "True Tragedy" of "Othello"

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The Tragedy of Othello

There are several essential elements that must be presented in a Shakespearean play in order to classify the piece as a true tragedy. Most importantly the tragedy must have a virtuous, noble protagonist who possesses a flaw, not a character defect, which will ultimately lead to his downfall or death. Another important detail is that the audience will have an emotional catharsis of pity and terror as the events of the play unfold. The work must also embellish language, and the tragedy will be presented as an action with a realistic plot. Shakespeare's Othello brilliantly encompasses all of these essential elements and introduces the world to perhaps the greatest tragic hero of all time, Othello, the Moor of Venice.

The protagonist's fall from grace due to his character flaw is the main idea of a tragedy. Othello's fatal flaw was not a defect in his character, but an excess of one of his many virtues. He was too trusting and naïve and this one flaw combined with Iago's (the antagonist) treacherous lies paved the way for Othello's demise. In the beginning of the play Othello is characterized as a noble general who shares a deep, pure love with his wife, Desdemona. He is an even-tempered man and this can be seen when in Act I, scene ii Iago attempts to turn him against Roderigo, but Othello refuses to be baited. He states to Iago, "Let him [Roderigo] do his spite./ My services which I have done the Signiory / Shall out-tongue his complaints" (I. ii. 17-19). It is hard to imagine Othello as a man who could be led to murder his innocent wife at this point in the play. Being the crafty villain that Iago is though, he consistently and cleverly manipulates the trusting Othello un...

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... the exact opposite and wins everyone over. One last word play that is quite powerful in the play is how Othello always described Iago as, "honest" Iago. After the murder of Desdemona and as Iago's scheme is about to be unveiled, it is pitiful when Othello still insist, "My friend, thy husband; honest, honest Iago" (V. ii. 151). Those words further emphasize the complete betrayal and the disastrous affects Othello's over trust in one man had on his life.

The Tragedy of Othello is yet another vehicle through which Shakespeare is able to express his genius as a playwright. He skillfully utilized all of the requirements needed to satisfy Aristotle's requirements for a true tragedy. Shakespeare's brilliant use of language captivates the audience as well as touching them on a personal level because of how understandable the events and human characteristics were.
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