William Shakespeare's Othello as a Classic Tragic Hero Essay

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Simply defined, a tragedy always entails the downfall of the protagonist. As a common standard in tragedy, the protagonist, or "tragic hero" is of high standing who is faced with some opposing force whether internal or external.

"Tragedy is the imitation of an action; and an action implies personal agents, who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and thought; for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves, and these- thought and character- are the two natural causes from which actions spring, and on actions, again all success or failure depends...."

This excerpt from Aristotle's Poetics illustrates an aspect of tragedy upon which many works, including Shakespeare's Othello, are
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In the beginning of the play, Shakespeare illustrates Othello as a benevolent military noble who shares an intellectual love with his young wife, Desdemona, that is of utmost purity and innocence. At once the evil character of Iago is introduced and uncovers the hero's tragic flaw; ultimately that of naiveté. Although Othello is usually a very even-tempered man, as can be seen when he refuses to let Iago persuade him to get angry at Roderigo, (I, ii, 6), an exteriour opposing force characterized by Iago, perpetuates the tragedy of the play by provoking the interiour opposing force, or the hamartia of the protagonist. Near the beginning of the play, Shakespeare's clever demonstration of dramatic irony allows the reader to realize Othello's tragic flaw in the fact that he hands his full trust over to a man who is "Janus-faced" and dishonest. "...my ancient; a man he is of honesty and trust. To this conveyance I assign my wife". The irony from this line lies in Othello's misconception of his ensign, Iago, who is already plotting against him for his own means. After witnessing Iago's conspiracy with Roderigo at the ruination of Othello in the previous act, the reader immediately sees Iago's villainess, however in innocence, Othello is blinded to it and by it. From this we see, as in many tragedies, the tragic hero's flaw is not actually a defect in itself, but rather an excess of a virtue. In the

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