Recognition in Tragedy - Othello Essay

1561 Words Feb 11th, 2011 7 Pages
’There are various degrees of recognition in tragedy. In Othello, recognition is minimal: the protagonist learns what he has done and what he has lost, but learns little or nothing about himself.’’ How far do you agree? – This is a quote that I have adapted into my thesis, taken from ‘’A Book of literary terms’’.

Anagnorisis, a Greek word meaning ‘’recognition’’, is described by Aristotle as ‘’a change from ignorance to knowledge’’. I agree with this statement as, in the play Othello, Othello’s character experiences this transition but not fully, he doesn’t get to the point of self realisation where he can be ‘’wash[ed]’’ (V.II.278) or cleansed to reach redemption. In Othello, recognition is minimal as the character never manages to
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268-269). This could indicate his first real signs of recognition. He gets a sense of detachment and is able to look at himself and compare his actions as others would. He goes on to describe Desdemona as ‘’ill –starred’’ meaning ill-fated. This brings him back to square one in my eyes, these words showing us that he still believes there is a chance that her fate was already set out for her, and therefore nothing could have been done. He places responsibility in the hands of fate - he calls Desdemona an "ill-starred wench" – this hardly being a gallant course of action. I found it interesting that he goes on to plead ‘’ wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire’’ (V.II. 278). Using the word ‘’wash’’ is a strange way to describe a punishment, as usually it would be associated with purification and cleansing. Here he is asking to be cleansed with ‘’liquid fire’’ but one cannot be washed with fire, fire is associated with burning and destruction, and more importantly hell. He knows he will go to hell for it, ‘’fiends’’ (V.II.273) snatching him back from heaven. In his initial self-disgust and remorse at realising the truth of Desdemona's innocence, Othello is genuinely anguished. "This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven and fiends will snatch at it." (V.II.272-273) - Imagery being used to describe hell to us and how he sees it through his eyes, ‘’fiends’’ being another word for devil. It is clear that he is in torment because of her death, but is it because
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