Discuss Othello as a tragedy Part I by William Shakespeare



Tragedy has always been regarded a great genre depicting dilemma of human existence; explaining from various angles that both greatness and humility come from within, proclaiming free will and touching upon the delicate matters such as fate. To A. C. Bradley Shakespearean tragedy is characterized by the "tragic flaw," the internal imperfection in the hero. Combined with chance, this imperfection becomes the cause of his demise. As we see in classical tragedy, Shakespeare's characters appear no longer slaves of their fate; their downfall is much because of their own actions, however, the role of chance and fate cannot be undermined. Mostly, Shakespeare employs his tragedies to depict a struggle between good and evil. A.C. Bradley has aptly described his tragedies as tale of suffering and calamity conducting to death.

Probably, it wouldn't be wrong to state that in modern age tragedy has been redefined by several of the authors like Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, and Samuel Becket etc. This, indeed, is the result of man's complex and chaotic position as witnessed by those great authors. Since Shakespeare wrote in a time and place remote from today's world, therefore, it may only be compared to classical standards. Though besides Aristotle, Hegel and Nietzsche as well as several others have given vent to their views over tragedy, yet Aristotle's definition of tragedy is widely respected for its universal relevance and brevity. According to Aristotle:

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.

For Aristotle a tragedy is to be serious having dignity and a protagonist of high esteem that experiences a reversal of fortune. This reversal of fortune must be caused by the tragic hero's hamartia, a mistake. We see a great character, Othello, rising up in life and eventually bringing about his own downfall expressed in his own words of dismay: Where should Othello go? According to Aristotle, "The change to bad fortune which he undergoes is not due to any moral defect or flaw, but a mistake of some kind like Othello's killing of his wife is based upon error of judgment and plotting by Iago. This causes pity and fear within the spectators. Tragedy results in a catharsis, emotional cleansing or healing for the audience; this is achieved through their experience of pity and fear in response to the suffering of the character(s) in the drama.

A tragic hero has to be a virtuous and "a morally blameless man”. Othello is a moor, a black but honorable man, in Denmark. He is respected for his courageous and brave service to the army. Othello is appointed as a general in the army. We don't find any moral flaw or defect in his character. Desdemona, the daughter of a senator, is in love with him despite the fact that he is black. They even elope and marry. It makes us appreciate his character. And his fall would cause a feeling of pity and fear among the audience. This merits him the standards of a tragic hero. The fall of Othello would be of high importance because it involves royal blood and may resultantly influence masses in general... Continue Reading



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