Is Othello a Tragic Play?

Othello is a character displaying all the classic traits of a tragic hero. Linguistically he is eloquent in style;

“Rude am I in my speech and little blessed with the soft phrase of speech” (1.3.82-3).

This also implies his modest side although he generally acts as an epic hero as opposed to a Christian leader and this too is reflected in his highly courageous and endearingly care-free speech:

“he that stir next, to carve for his own rage, holds his soul light: he dies upon his motion” (2.3.169-170).

His peers also recognize him as heroic; Montano calls him

‘brave Othello’ (2.1.37) and a ‘worthy governor’ (2.1.30). This case relies on the assumption of Iago’s completely evil nature and indeed he is generally scened as one of Shakespeare’s most despicable characters. He has a multitude of motives. Resentment and jealously of Cassio’s promotion: he wishes ‘to get his place’- (1.3.391-2) and once demoted says, ‘how do you now, lieutenant?’

Hatred of Othello: ‘doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards and when Iago goes on to taunt Othello with degrading sexual images of Desdemona (3.3.205) is this hatred not perfectly visible? These accusations have little just cause and it is Othello we empathize with. Othello deals gracefully with the crude racism that was common for the time and concurrently treats his peers with equality and respect and is the model gentlemen when his wife is concerned. In the very first act there is a distinct theme of racism as Iago and Roderigo let their true feelings be known as they discuss Othello:

“And I – God bless the mark, His moorship’s ancient!”

This is clearly sarcastic with the deliberate intent of mocking he of the ‘thick lips’ and Roderigo responds,

“By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman”.

He also displays his naivety, which could be perceived as a fatal flaw, as he insists on calling Iago ‘honest ‘ persistently throughout the play.

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