Othello Essay

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Othello Essay

William Shakespeare’s Othello tells a story of the tragic downfall of a man through jealousy and mistrust, influenced by the manipulative actions of another. Due to innumerable changes within society over time, it is inevitable that a wide range of critical interpretations and readings of the text will emerge.

My personal interpretation of the play draws from the concepts of the traditional Aristotelian views of a tragedy. An Aristotelian interpretation concerns itself with whether Othello can be considered a true tragedy. The two main principles which determine whether a text can be labelled as a true tragedy include the plot and the characters.

The first principle within an Aristotelian tragedy includes the idea
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and the protagonist should be renowned and prosperous, so his change of fortune can be from good to bad ...” Despite being set in a society where black men were looked down upon, Othello is successfully categorised as the renowned and prosperous protagonist. As a noble moor and husband to the young fair Desdemona, his fortune changes from good to bad as the play progresses. His mistrust in Desdemona leads him to murdering her, thus losing something he loved so dearly. Aristotle also claims that “The protagonist will mistakenly bring about his own downfall – not because he is sinful or morally weak, but because he does not know enough.” This idea is also portrayed throughout the play. Othello’s downfall was not due to him being sinful or morally weak, but because he simply did not know enough. His promoting of Cassio led Iago to become jealous and ultimately led to Othello’s downfall. Due to his lack of knowledge, Othello also fell victim to Iago’s manipulative and cunning nature leading to his growing trust in Iago and the questioning of Desdemona’s loyalty.

Also, another aspect of an Aristotelian tragedy is the term “hamartia”. Hamartia refers to a weakness or a mistake or more commonly as a tragic flaw. Othello’s hamartia is expressed clearly through the play. When Iago manipulates Othello into suspecting Desdemona of being unfaithful, his jealousy clouds his mind where it has come to the point where all he cares about is proving
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