Human Frailty in Othello Essay

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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
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3. 400-401).

He lacks the critical intelligence to doubt Iago, because Othello feels his masculinity is damaged by even the mere suggestion that he has been cuckolded. His insecure grasp of social and human values results in placing his faith in Iago, over his supposed beloved. His immature romanticism allows passion to override his critical intelligence (as evidenced by his epileptic fits, triggered by superfluous emotion), and results in blindness to the pitfalls that surround him. In the Anthony Hopkins film version, Othello is foaming at the mouth, and seems to get progressively more insane. By the middle of the play, Othello has already believed his newlywed wife has been unfaithful to him; his only "relief must be to loathe her" (3. 3. 266-267). He strikes his chest, and it hurts his hand, so hardened is his heart. He believes Iago so fully, that "all [his] fond love thus do I blow to heaven/ 'Tis gone/Arise, black vengeance, from hollow hell;" this man quickly converts love into hate, as the emotions do seem to go hand-in-hand (3. 3. 442-443). In Act III, Scene III, Iago pledges himself to Othello "forever;" Othello is being gradually pulled down to Hell (476).

It is this unequivocal acceptance of Iago's slipshod evidence over Desdemona's vehement denials that indicate he is not as

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