The idea of heroism is one often associated with virtue, courage and valour. Within Othello, Shakespeare questions the meaning behind heroism and admirability in the context of a Venetian society, in which the play is set. Through the tragic descent of Othello’s composure and his actions, the audience is left to wonder whether or not his virtue and presentation as an admirable general and hero, actually exists. Act 1 of the play presents Othello's decisions and behaviour as the epitome of virtue and valour, showing him as a high statured character - the definition of a tragic hero in Aristotelian methods, as it demands a character of greatness to suffer the greatest downfall. Although not necessarily presented as high born, he is deemed to
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Iago’s soliloquy within Act 2 Scene one describes his plans for manipulating Othello, "Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me, / For making him egregiously an ass”. His referral to Othello as nothing more than a donkey (‘ass’), envisions Othello as little as a animal - one seen as the cheapest use of labour in the world of work; this view crumbles the one of Othello’s status and valour as a hero and reduces it to one as a cheap tool for Iago’s manipulations. This is further seen by Othello’s comments to the Duke that Iago “is of honesty and trust”, this depicts Othello as a naive man, easily manipulated by men of a lower status- this therefore argues against Othello’s apparent admirability with in the play.
Additionally, Othello’s virtue could be questioned from his actions at the very beginning of the play; we are told that Othello entered an unblessed marriage to Desdemona. The broken custom of asking permission for marriage from Desdemona’s father presents Othello as dishonourable. He ignores the social conventions which society upholds to him, and as an outsider with some negative views upon his race this did him no favours. Brabantio placed his trust in Othello as his friend and fellow member of the venetian government , but is ultimately betrayed by ‘stealing’ his daughter away from him, such actions would not typically be seen from a war hero, who describes his path through life as a ‘pilgrimage’, therefore Othello’s actions reject the