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Othello As a Tragic Hero Essay

Related Topics: Othello Shakespeare Play Desdemona

Pages:7 (1956 words)

Sources:7

Subject:Literature

Topic:Tragic Hero

Document Type:Essay

Document:#25327293


Thesis Statement

Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragic hero according to the definition of Aristotle. First, he is a man of noble stature. Second, he is good—but not perfect—and his fall is directly attributable to his own guilty actions. Third, his fall is tragic—the combination of his greatness and his own responsibility in causing his own fall. Fourth, the misfortune Othello suffers is enormous and due to the fact that he himself is larger than life. Fifth, the fall that Othello suffers does come with an increase of awareness—self-knowledge that restores a bit of his wisdom and nobility before the curtain falls; he exits not cursing his fate but taking responsibility for his own crimes and acknowledging the justice delivered upon himself. Sixth, the play achieves a cathartic effect by arousing pity and fear in the audience in which the emotions are purified or purged; instead of feeling depressed by what has been witnessed the audience is filled with compassion and awe, fear and trepidation. The language used throughout the play is appropriate and pleasurable, and the play provides the best of all tragic plots according to the Aristotelian model: it consists of a reversal and a discovery. This paper will show that Othello fits Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero and Shakespeare’s play adheres to the model of an Aristotelian tragedy.

Outline

I. Introduction

a. What is a Tragedy?

b. Is Othello a tragic hero?

c. Is Shakespeare’s play an Aristotelian tragedy?

II. Body

a. Elements that make Othello a tragic hero

i. He is noble

ii. He is good but flawed and commits a criminal act

iii. His fall is his own doing

iv. His fall is immense but it comes with the gaining of wisdom

b. Elements that make the play an acceptable Aristotelian tragedy

i. The play is serious and complete and imitates a dramatic action, effecting catharsis

ii. The language is pleasurable and appropriate

iii. The chief characters are noble

iv. The plot involves a change in the protagonist’s fortune

v. The fall is a result of the hero’s criminal action

vi. The plot has organic unity—events follow because of one another

vii. It has the best plot—it involves a reversal and a discovery

III. Conclusion

a. Othello is a tragic hero

b. The play meets Aristotle’s criteria for a tragedy.

Introduction

Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragic hero according to the definition of Aristotle. First, he is a man of noble stature. Second, he is good—but not perfect—and his fall is directly attributable to his own guilty actions. Third, his fall is tragic—the combination of his greatness and his own responsibility in causing his own fall. Fourth, the misfortune Othello suffers is enormous and due to the fact that he himself is larger than life. Fifth, the fall that Othello suffers does come with an increase of awareness—self-knowledge that restores a bit of his wisdom and nobility before the curtain falls; he exits not cursing his fate but taking responsibility for his own crimes and acknowledging the justice delivered upon himself. Sixth, the play can be considered an Aristotelian tragedy because it achieves a cathartic effect by arousing pity and fear in the audience—or, as Schaper (1968) explains, by purifying the emotions and purging them of any ugliness; instead of feeling depressed by what has been witnessed the audience is filled with compassion and awe, fear and trepidation. The language used throughout the play is appropriate and pleasurable, and the play provides the best of all tragic plots according to the Aristotelian model: it contains a reversal and a discovery.…

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…which flaws that allow the misfortune to build.

The plot does involve a huge change in the hero’s fortune. Othello is on top of the world at the beginning of the play. By the end, he has literally fallen into hell. There is also discovery, however: he realizes that Iago has tricked him and that he was not just at all in killing Desdemona.

He does accept responsibility for the killing of his wife and takes his own life as a way of punishing himself for his transgression. It is not out of fear of being found out but rather out of disgust for what the dog in him has done: to kill the dog he has to kill himself, hoping that in this action some semblance of honor can be restored. It is this insight—this knowledge of his own criminal actions that completes the tragic course of the play. It is organically constructed, with each plot point following because of a previous action of the protagonists and antagonists. The protagonists act under cover of darkness in eloping and set the stage for the devil of deception to enter in. Othello falls for Iago’s tricks because he fails to believe in his own wife’s goodness. His fall is his fault. Iago merely facilitates it. The plot contains a reversal and a discovery and thus is the best of all tragic plots, according to the Aristotelian model of tragedy.

Conclusion

Othello is a tragic hero in the vein of the Aristotelian tragic hero. He meets all of Aristotle’s criteria for a tragic hero: he is noble, larger than life, good but flawed, and his fall is the result of his own actions—not of Fate. He gains insight after his fall. The play is also an Aristotelian tragedy: it includes a reversal and a discovery and produces a cathartic…


Sample Source(s) Used

References

Bates, C. (1997) ‘Shakespeare’s Tragedies of Love’, Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bradley, A. (1951). Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth. London: Macmillan.

Hallstead, R. N. (1968). Idolatrous Love: A New Approach to Othello. Shakespeare Quarterly, 19(2), 107-124.

Johnson, G. & Arp, T. (2018). Perrine’s Literature. Boston, MA: Cengage.

Kirsch, A. (1978). The Polarization of Erotic Love in ‘Othello’. The Modern Language Review, 73(4), 721-740.

Schaper, E. (1968). Aristotle's catharsis and aesthetic pleasure. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), 18(71), 131-143.

Shakespeare, W. (n.d.). The tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice. Retrieved from http://shakespeare.mit.edu/othello/full.html

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