Othello has a variety of strengths in his dual roles as a man and as a leader of men. Those traits for which he is most recognized in Venice are those that make him an excellent military commander. Othello’s generalship is greatly respected due to his expensive experience fighting against the Turks. He has been a career warrior for decades, accumulating many tales that he then conveys to Desemona, regaling her with “the battles, sieges, fortunes, / That I have passed.” (1.3.132-133) It is also certain that his military career has been one of significant success, as he seems sure that “[m]y services which I have done the signiory / Shall out-tongue [Brabantio’s] complaints,” even against such a serious charge as stealing away a valuable
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In fact, he denigrates himself to others at times, claiming before the Senate that “[r]ude am I in my speech, / And little bless'd with the soft phrase of peace” (1.3.81-82). Also unlike many historical figures in positions of power, he is not paranoid, and in fact trusts very heartily; although not easily earned, “[h]is trust, where he trusts, is absolute” (Bradley 191). His trust is most firm in men like Cassio and Iago, men who have weathered battles by his side. He trusts Cassio to keep the affair with Desdemona secret while ferrying messages between them in Venice. In Iago, particularly, Othello trusts much, giving him the responsibility of carrying Desdemona to Cyprus, across storm-wracked waters plagued by Turkish ships. Considering they were newly-wed and surely in love, it is a great show of trust when Othello says “my ancient; / A man he is of honest and trust: / To his conveyance I assign my wife” (1.3.284-286).
2. Othello fulfills the requirements of a tragedy by having in the hero a single tragic flaw, which ultimately leads to his unfortunate end. Othello’s flaw is a perversion of a virtuous trait that all people possess to some extent, trust. Unfortunately, this dedicated, trusting nature is much abused by Iago, who uses Othello’s “entire confidence in the honesty of Iago” (Bradley 192) to poison his mind against