William Shakespeare’s Othello Tragedies frequently focus on a tragic hero that has a flaw that ultimately leads to his downfall. That flaw is commonly referred to as a tragic flaw that is inborn to the person and can reflect his background. In Aristotle’s Poetics, he discusses the theory of tragedy and what criteria is essential in an ideal tragedy. According to Aristotle, the tragic flaw is the most important part of the hero and the events that occur in the work is a reflection of that flaw. A tragic flaw is essential in a true tragedy.
In William Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello is a prime example of an Aristotelian tragic hero. His gullibility and jealousy are the main reason of his downfall. Othello deals with love lost because of gullibility and jealousy. Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, found in the Poetics, deals with the characteristics of plays that make them a true tragedy. Those characteristics are essential in giving a play its true definition. According to Aristotle, the life and soul of tragedy is plot. Incidents in the plot have the best effect if they occur unexpectedly, and in consequence of one another.
A great tragedy grips the audience with the plot. Aristotle also states that the sense of the inevitable must be present in tragedy. The tragic hero is also another important factor in an Aristotelian tragedy. The central character must be noble and have a higher stature than most men. The tragic hero must also have better qualities than secondary characters but must also exhibit flaws. The most important part of an Aristotelian tragic hero is the tragic flaw.
The flaw is inborn to the person. He must have that flaw throughout his life and it will play the primary role in his downfall. The flaw can also reflect the tragic hero’s background. Another part of the central character is that he is destroyed by himself, not by others, bad luck, or depravity. These are the criteria necessary to be classified as a ideal tragedy.
Othello meets the criteria to be called an Aristotelian tragedy. The main character of Othello is a classical example of a tragic hero. His basic elements matches him up to a true hero as defined by Aristotle. Othello was a soldier all his life. Due to his Moorish descent, he experienced many things that a normal Venetian didn’t experience. His nobility and rank of a general made him of a higher stature than anyone else.
His nobility and background made him a greatly respected person. That nobility also what attracted Desdemona, his wife. Othello also exhibited great leadership qualities that he earned in the field of battle and by being a leader in Venice. Othello’s background also was of a unsophisticated one. He came from a land of bartering and barbarians.
His background affected his attitude. Othello was a person that was innocent and base in nature. He was influenced by the way his life was going on. Othello’s statement, Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee. And when I love thee not, chaos is come again.(act 3, sc.
3, line 100), showed that he felt his life was only in order if he is loved. His innocence and lack of sophistication is revealed in this statement. The people around him also knew of Othello’s attitude. Iago was very quick to see this. In his first soliloquy, Iago said the moor is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so. (1,3,442) Iago knew of Othello’s weakness. Othello’s innocence and baseness made him susceptible to being undermined by people. Iago also reveals his plan to use the moor’s gullibility against him.
Othello was clearly a person who believed appearances versus reality. When Othello was told about an affair between Desdemona and Cassio, he started to become jealous. Being that person who believes appearances, he wanted ocular proof of Desdemona’s infidelity. Even a superficial piece of evidence would have been sufficient. In his statement, Give me a living reason she is disloyal.(3,3,446), Othello revealed that he would believe in anything he saw. This is a clear example of his gullibility and that appearances could fool him.
Othello’s words is the underlying statement that determined his feelings. The tragic flaw of gullibility would lead his feelings to make bad judgments. All of his characteristics made him a clear Aristotelian tragic hero as discussed in the Poetics. Othello’s tragic flaw of gullibility is exposed throughout the course of the play. He also developed a jealousy that was caused by his credulousness. Iago is the catalyst of Othello’s acquired jealousy.
Our attention remains sustained on the arch villainy of Iago and his plot to plant in Othello’s mind a corroding belief in his wife’s unfaithfulness.(Wright, 127) Wright comments on the role of Iago as the main point in the play in the first three acts. His scheming was inflicted upon the unsuspecting Othello throughout the play. Iago’s evil was structured on using falsities and insinuations to play on Othello’s gullibility. Iago appeared as an honest but in reality he was an evil person. Iago created a trap that was easily bought in to by Othello. Iago knew of Othello’s flaws and exploited them. Iago came to trap Othello as he plays against him with his game of an honest and loving friend.(Heilman, 334) Heilman quotes on Iago’s loving appearance.
This also relates to the statement quoted throughout the play, honest Iago. Iago acts as a friend to everyone he wants to manipulate. His friendly, supportive nature is easy to trust, and when Iago has that trust, he exploits you to his benefits. Aware that Othello trusts him, Iago will convince the moor that Cassio is too familiar with Desdemona. Othello he says is of a free and open nature.(Carey, 26) Othello’s gullibility is very evident to Iago and to the audience. Othello’s free and open nature makes him vulnerable to being tricked by Iago.
Iago’s intelligence read Othello’s baseness. When the initial rumor of an affair between Desd …