Othello as a Tragic Hero
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Othello is a classic tragic hero that stands out as distinguished individual failing in the encounter with evil. Brought to us through Shakespeare’s genius, he compares in significance to other personalities including Oedipus, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet and other tragic heroes. This paper will focus on the explication of Othello as a tragic hero and his correspondence to the canons for tragic protagonists.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Othello and Aristotle’s Definition of Tragedy
To decide how well Othello fits into the mold of a tragic hero, one needs to accept in the first place a working definition of tragedy and tragic hero. The theorists exploring tragedy almost universally draw upon the classic account of this play variety in Aristotle’s Poetics.
The prominent Greek philosopher defined a heroic tragedy in the following way: “A truly tragic plot is a disastrous reversal of fortune, coming, through his own fault, to a man of essentially noble quality, accompanied by the discovery that some other person or persons are not what they had seemed…[The] test of a great tragedy is its power to cleanse the beholders’ emotions through the pity and fear which it awakens in them” (Othello: the tragic hero).
This cleansing that is realised through pity and fear was termed catharsis and is an indispensable feature of any tragedy. Besides, a tragedy needs a character of noble quality, guilty of some kind of fault that brings about tragic events. A tragedy also has to present to the reader a plot possessing some logical unity and completion and the one that contains engaging action. Aristotle also specified that a tragedy has to include appropriate linguistic devices that serve to bring out its meaning (Time and the tragic hero).
Most critics stopped short of saying that Shakespeare was aware of Aristotelian theories and took them as a guide for writing (Time and the tragic hero; Djordjevic 2003). However, his tragedies reveal strict adherence to Aristotle’s theory, and Othello is no exception. Whether this correspondence was caused by a thorough study of Aristotle’s works or through an accidental coincidence of thoughts of two geniuses of the world’s culture remains a matter for guessing.
Thus, the play definitely possesses a noble character, Othello. The man’s nobility of action contrasts with his dark-colored appearance, unusual for Europe of that time. Othello proved himself to be a noble warrior deserving of the highest respect. He never acts dishonestly or cowardly throughout the play; in fact, nobility is one of the most important features of his character. Yet he fails through his own fault, and this fault is his credibility.