Othello As A Tragic Hero Essay, Research Paper
In Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello can be considered a tragic hero because he follows Aristotle’s six elements of a tragedy. Another tragic hero who follows the same six elements of a tragedy is Oedipus from Oedipus the King. Based on Aristotle’s six elements of a tragedy, position, flaw, prophecy, recognition, catastrophe, and reversal, the character Othello from Shakespeare’s Othello can be considered a tragic hero.
The first element of tragedy is position, which lets the reader know the position, or status, that the hero is in. In Othello, Othello is the leader of the Italian army and is very important to the people of Italy. “Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman (11).” This quote shows how important Othello is to the army and to the war. The same kind of position can be seen in Oedipus the King because Oedipus is king and is respected by the people of Thebes. “King Oedipus, the sovereign of our land (Sophocles 5).” This quote shows the importance of Oedipus to Thebes, just like Othello is important to Venice. When Othello is chosen to lead the army over seas, he also makes Brabantio mad by marrying his daughter, Desdemona, without his permission. “And, noble signior, if virtue no delighted beauty lack, your son-
in-law is far more far than black (17).” This quote shows that Othello is so respected that the Duke of Venice can see through the color of Othello’s skin and gives him praise.
The second element of tragedy is prophecy, which can be seen when Othello is telling Desdemona the story about when he received the handkerchief. “She told me her, while she kept it ‘t would make her amiable and subdue my father entirely to her love, but if she lost it or made a gift of it, my father’s eye should hold her loathed and his spirits should hunt after new fancies (56).” This quote lets the reader know that the handkerchief is not only important to Othello and Desdemona but it is also important to the play because it’s the reason why Othello gets jealous. The same type of prophecy can be seen in Oedipus the King when Oedipus first meets the blind profit, Tiresias. ” detected in his very heart of home: his children’s father and their brother, son and husband to his mother, bed-rival to his father and assassin.” Both prophecies are the same not only because they pertain to family, but also because both quotes are very crucial to the plays because they both lead to the downfall of the tragic hero. Another incident where prophecy occurred in the play was when Desdemona tells the story of Barbara, Desdemona’s mother’s maid, who sang a song of “willow”. “An old thing ‘t was, but it express’d her fortune, and she died singing it: that song to-night will not go from my mind (75).” This quote is an example of prophecy because it’s foreshadowing that Desdemona will die because she won’t let the song go from her mind.
The third element of a tragedy is flaw. Flaw can be either hubris or anger. “By heaven, that should be my handkerchief (64)!” This quote shows the jealousy that Othello has over the fact that Desdemona is being unfaithful to him. In Oedipus the king
anger can be seen when Tiresias tells Oedipus that he is the evil that haunts the town. “Good riddance too! You’re nothing but a nuisance here, and one I can do without.” This is an example of how powerful anger can be because of the anger that Othello feels, he can’t even stand to look at the woman that he loves. Once Othello finds out that Desdemona is being unfaithful to him, he approaches her looking for an explanation. “O devil, devil! If that the earth could teem with woman’s tears, each drop she falls would prove a crocodile. Out of my sight (67)!” This quote shows how Othello’s jealousy has turned into rage, a form of anger.
The third element of a tragedy is recognition, which can be seen when Emilia hears Othello mentions the handkerchief, after he killed Desdemona. ” with that recognizance and pledge of love which I first gave her; I saw it in his hand: It was a handkerchief, an antique token my father gave my mother (87).” Once Othello says this, Emilia knows that Iago is the person who set up Desdemona and Othello isn’t the one to blame. Recognition can also be seen in Oedipus the King after the shepherd tells the story of the baby. “For if you are the one he says you are, make no mistake: you are a doom-born man (Sophocles 67).” At this point in the play, Oedipus knows that he is the one who is causing the problems in Thebes because the Tiresias was right.
The forth element of a tragedy is catastrophe, which can be seen when Othello dies. “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss (91).” This is the last thing that Othello says before he dies which is the catastrophe in the play. Oedipus’ catastrophe happens when Jocasta kills herself after she finds out that the prophet of Oedipus was true. “He frees the noose and lays the wretched woman
down, then rips from off her dress the golden brooches she was wearing (Sophocles 70).” This quote shows the severity of the fact that Jocasta kills herself because it leads right into reversal.
The forth element of a tragedy is reversal which can be seen when Desdemona kills herself. “Whip me, ye devils, from the possession of this heavenly sight! Blow me about in the winds! Roast me in sulphur! Wash me down in steep-down gulfs of fire! O Desdemona! Desdemona! Dead! Oh! Oh! Oh (88)!” This quote shows the pain that Othello felt when everything turned bad. In Oedipus the King, Oedipus went through the same kind of pain when he went through reversal. “Aah! A nightmare mist has fallen adamantine black on me-abomination closing. Cry, cry, oh cry again (Sophocles 72)!” Oedipus and Othello are in so much pain and suffering that they both inflict sever wounds upon themselves. When Othello finds out that Desdemona was being faithful to him, he asks for forgiveness. “I do believe it, and I ask your pardon. Will you, I pray, demi-devil why he hath thus enslaved my soul and body (90)? This quote shows that Othello is in so much pain that he feels enslaved in his own body.
Othello can be seen as a tragic hero because he follows all of Aristotle’s six elements of tragic hero. These are the same six elements that define Oedipus as a tragic hero. The six elements of a tragedy can be seen throughout the plays Othello and Oedipus the King. That is why Othello is seen as a tragic hero through the eyes of the reader.