Oedipus and Othello Exemplify Aristotle’s Definition of a Tragic Hero Essays

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Throughout our history, many genres have survived the test of time. One of the most well known and popular genre is the tragedy. A tragedy tells a story of the downfall of a basically good person through some fatal error or misjudgment, producing suffering and insight on the part of the protagonist and arousing pity and fear on the part of the audience. One of the main authorities on tragedy is ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. His piece of literature, Poetics, is highly regarded as one of the main sources used to define what makes a tragedy. In each tragedy, there must be a tragic hero to carry out the plot of the story. In addition, the protagonist must conform to specific guidelines according to Aristotle to be considered a tragic hero. According to Aristotle, the hero of a tragedy must “not be shown passing from good fortune to misfortune; again, vicious people must not be shown passing from misfortune to good fortune; nor again should an utterly evil man fall from good fortune into misfortune. So we are left with the man between these extremes: that is to say, the kind of man who neither is distinguished for excellence and virtue, nor comes to grief on account of baseness and vice, but on account of some error; a man of great reputation and prosperity, like Oedipus and Thyestes and conspicuous people of such families as theirs.” (L.J. Potts 981-2) However, there are many adverse views on his definition of a tragic hero. The question is whether or not those guidelines must adhere to all tragedies to be successful. Othello, the protagonist in Othello is much like Oedipus, from Oedipus the King. Both Oedipus and Othello fulfill all of the prerequisites of a tragic hero: men between the extremes, they have a tragic flaw, t...

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...ying the requirement of high status. Oedipus’ tragic flaw was his short temper, which led him to his downfall, as did Othello’s flaws of naivety and mistrust. Both plays went through a peripeteia and an anagnorisis, as both saw a reversal of fortune and a realization of their mistakes. All these elements of tragedy give the audience a feeling of pity and remorse for both Oedipus and Othello, thus reinforcing Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero.

Works Cited
Aristotle. “Critics on Sophocles.” Poetics. Trans. L.J. Potts

“Othello as a Tragic Play.” 04 Feb 2009.

Hall, Joan Lord. Othello: A Guide to the Play. Westport: Greenwood, 1999

Nostbakken, Faith. Understanding Othello. Westport: Greenwood, 2000

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Clayton: Prestwick House Inc., 2005

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