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Free Othello as an Aristotelian Tragedy Essay Sample

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William Shakespeare's Othello to a large extent conforms to the tragedy tenets as put forth by Aristotle. In his seminal work, The Poetics, Aristotle spelt out what he believed to be the principles that defined a work of art as a tragedy. Aristotle postulated that a tragedy is a fictitious work that explores a noble hero felled by a tragic flaw in his personal characters and traits. The defect- also called tragic flaw is juxtaposed with high degree of integrity and a lovable personality that the audience, and even the author, seeks to establish himself with. In the climax, the hero ruins himself as an antithesis to his own mistakes though an external force might contribute to his downfall. The force seeks to exploit that weak spot or trait of the character and contribute to their downfall.

In the end, the tragic hero realizes his errors or mistakes and accepts responsibility for his doom. The hero ostensibly obliges to the inevitable, though their acceptance of their fate once again elevates them to a state of nobility enjoyed from the onset of the play (Nabir, 2004).  Subsequently, Shakespeare identifies a man who would be perceived as only humane and the exquisite manner in which he uses dramatic irony invokes the audience to their sympathy his tribulations and redemption serve to remind the audience that we are human after all.

Aristotle felt that it was of outmost importance that the audience associates with the tragic hero. In this case, moved by greed, ambition, pride or by being carried away by power, the audience would understand the behavior of humans in such circumstances and realize just how far their humanity and pursuit of the world exploits blinds endangers the relationship with fellow humans (Neill, 2006). The response of the audience should appreciate the fate and evoke fear, yet they motivate humanity to rise from their tumbles, challenges and experiences and move on. 

Othello, moved beyond sanity by Iago lets emotions take over. Iago manipulates Othello through skillful lies and his once wise and sound judgment is replaced with anger and hate leading to his strangling of Desmodena followed by the suicide act. Othello in the harmatia or tragic flaw of the play, sculls a personality of calmness, control and love and replaces it with anger and jealousy and the audience experience a cathartic effect by associating with his woes, tribulations and sympathize with his predicament.

William Shakespeare sets forth the character of Othello as an admirable person and immediately attracts the ardor of the audience. The foundation of Shakespeare's tragic play is hinged on the relationship between Othello and Desmodena and encompasses the heinous plot by Iago to ensure the downfall of Othello (Sander, 2003). In the First two scenes of scene 1, Othello is introduced as a benevolent military noble courtesy of the conversation between Iago and Roderigo. Othello comes across as a loving and caring husband to Desmodena and as well espouses an admirable temperament and perfectly polished romantic attributes. Their relationship with Desmodena is put across as intellectual if not cordial and is at best pure and innocent.

The marriage between Desmodena and Othello presents a chance to Iago to exploit through Roderigo, a man who claims to have been bequeathed the hand of Desmodena in marriage (Sander, 2001). In addition, Iago seeks to exploit the overly trusting Desmodena and Shakespeare introduces the kind of a trusting guy Othello he is when he initially bestows his trust upon Iago, knowing very little that Iago was planning his down fall. He says "Eventually, "...my ancient; a man he is of honesty and trust. To this conveyance I assign my wife". All this is albeit the fact that Iago and Roderigo had conspired against him and accused him eloping with his daughter of Brabantio.  Othello comes unscathed from this incidence by strongly narrating his affection for Desmodena; whose heart it is affirmed was won over by the adventurous stories of his war experiences.

For a man not of loyal background, his personality and exploits win over the audience.  Though Aristotle believed that the tragic-hero must be a man of royal background, the fact that Othello had attained a noble status and a vintage point in terms of admiration-even winning over Iago and Roderigo- Othello came across as a war hero and even the Authorities entrusted him with the responsibility of leading the army to battle with Cyprus.  But before he leaves, he delivers a moving speech in his defense against accusations that he has won over Desmodena through use of witchcraft. The elevation of Othello to a standard of admiration, command and success is a commendable virtuoso attempt at ensuring that the audience gets to relate with Othello, and imagines just what it takes to rise from nowhere to a point of commanding the armies of a foreign country, after all Othello is a Moor; an African King who has risen to the position of a General in the Venetian Army (Nabir, 2006).

Though one can chance to disqualify the Aristotelian tragedy in relation to the loyal background, it is quite clear that Othello is a foreign Prince and thus has 'loyal blood' in his veins and also his actions show just how much he is worth. Othello went as afar as earning a position as a god, a man respected by the authorities so much that the Duke had to send not one but three emissaries to summon him with an order to lead the Venetians in the war against the invading Turks. Fortunately, the Turks fleet is destroyed by ravaging storm and Othello orders general celebrations which Iago takes as the perfect opportunity to set up his evils plans.

The skewed plot to his downfall, perfectly executed by Iago achieves tremendous success. Aristotle noted that external forces influence the downfall of the hero in relation to the harmatia which translates to the tragic flaw. Iago was aware of the over-trusting nature of Othello. In addition, by endearing himself to Roderigo, he forces them to a fight with Cassius which makes Othello strip him of his rank, the rank that Iago craves for. In addition, he advises Cassius to use Desmodena as the bridge to Othello so as to regain his post. His strategy is to tie Desmodena to Cassius and thus evoke the anger of Othello who loves his wife and treats her so jealously.

Othello becomes unnaturally suspicious and is overtaken by emotion to an extent of falling prey to Iago's lies that Desmodena has been unfaithful (Baker, 2001). Othello trusts a dishonest person who succeeds in providing 'evidence' in his gift of handkerchief to Desmodena which Cassius is in possession of. Othello falls into a trance upon falling into a well calculated lies of the alleged affair with Cassius. "Lie on her? ...Zounds! ...Noses, ears, and lips? Is't possible? -Confess? -Handkerchief-O devil! This marks the end of a composed Othello and the incarnation of a physically and mentally challenged man in the former.

The boiling anger and jealousy protract not just how weak Othello is but also his over-trusting virtues. Cast into the belief that his wife had been unfaithful, Othello takes up the points on harmatia as explored by Aristotle and at the same time commits himself to the path of down fall. In the aftermath of the brawl between Cassius and Roderigo, he fails to perfectly read the script and is fooled into believing that Iago had no hand in the brawl. In addition, he is overtaken by emotions and strangles his wife Desmodena on accusations of unfaithfulness which the audience knows too well that they are false. Thus, he completed what Aristotle had termed as leading to his own downfall first by the murder of a faithful wife then the committing suicide on realization that his acts were wrong and misinformed. Notably, Aristotle indicated that in tragedy the tragic-hero realizes his actions were misinformed when it is too late.

The realization of his grave mistake and condemnation of the villain leads to a cathartic effect and fosters the realization that after all he is human. The characters realize- only too late that indeed Iago was wrong and he murders Emilia, but the audience has all along been aware that the villain is not Othello it is Iago (Neill, 2006). This complete the lat of Aristotelian tragedies in which he postulated that eventually it is established by all that the tragic hero was not responsible for his woes but rather the villain. Though Othello passes on, Iago doesn't succeed and he is condemned to slow but painful death.

Conclusion

Through a careful eye of scrutiny, the claim for the play as a tragedy based on the principles of Aristotle can be faulted by the fact that Othello does not appear to be the main character. (Baker, 2001) argues that the play is hugely indebted to the gullibility and easy to manipulate nature of Othello and even more on his fatal flaws. However, the manner in which he struggles to explain why Iago- the villain is the main character are far less convincing because by citing the flaws of Othello he just helps to extrapolate the importance of Othello.

All characters in the play and their acts have something to do with Othello, especially the feminine characters and nothing to do with Iago and his interests. Therefore, the inability of Baker to substantiate a main character echoes the sentiment the indeed Othello is the main character and thus gives the green light to his examination, prompting the valid assessment that the play is a tragedy and Othello is the tragic-hero.

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