How does Shakespeare create Othello as a character who is tragic?

Othello's tragic flaw - especially his race

Answers
Some points to consider: A tragic hero in the likes of Shakespeare's and other writers' plays, generally begins as a person of great respect and standing in his or her society. They are often described as having a noble character, are praised by the great or mighty (kings, dukes etc) and occupy a position of trust. Think of how Othello fulfills these criteria. You might be reminded of other tragic heroes such as Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet. Secondly, the hero usually has some kind of tragic or fatal flaw - a character defect or weakness which leads to his/her downfall. With Othello this is his naivete and capacity to trust too much, especially the wrong person, in this case Iago. Thirdly, the tragic hero comes up against a force or events which serve to bring this fatal flaw to the surface. In Hamlet, it is his indecision which comes to the surface as a result of his mother's 'o'er hasty' remarriage. In Othello, it is the force of Iago's manipulation and accusations against Desdemona and Cassio which bring Othello's gullibility to the surface. Fourthly, coming up against these forces and events culminate in tragic actions which bring the hero's reputation, strength of character, or even his life crashing down. Think of how this happens to Othello.
yvmason
08 February 2012
Sometimes the hero gets an opportunity to regain some of his integrity or respect in people's eyes at the end. Think about how this happens with Othello, particularly in that he regains the audience's sympathy despite the horrific crime he has just commited.
yvmason
08 February 2012
Hope this is useful!
yvmason
08 February 2012
I would say that Othello's race is not necessarily part of his tragic flaw, but it does cause him to feel insecure and vulnerable, which renders him more open to Iago's manipulation. Also, Iago uses Othello's race and colour to place Othello in a bad light.
yvmason
08 February 2012
that is useful thank you. My essay title is "to what extent can Othello be seen as a classic tragedy about race and society" and my teacher wants to to focus on how Shakespeare created othello as a character who is tragic and to link this to race and the society around him
roseward11
09 February 2012
Sounds an interesting essy! If you'd like further, more in-depth help with this, then you are welcome to contact me for a tutoring session.
yvmason
10 February 2012
Hiya!It looks like you've had some great tips already, but just in case, perhaps I can pop a few more ideas into the mix? Othello's fate is tragic because it is fundamentally self-inflicted, or self-prophesising. Othello's jealousy is typical of society at the time, and his own tragic weakness leads to his demise- a useful quote may be Iago 'O beware my Lord of jealousy'. Indeed, T.S Eliot wrote of Othello that his fate was a 'terrible exposure of human weakness' His race also means tragedy for Othello; for at the time, a relationship between races was viewed as strange and doomed to fail. Iago constantly points at Othello's 'otherness' and alien-ness, labelling him a 'lascivious moor'. Whereas Desdemona's pale complexion is described in language that couldn't be more polar opposite- 'so tender, fair and happy'. Dr Johnson, a critic of the time stated that the play was 'a very useful moral, not to make an unequal match'. This is great time to put some context in your answer, perhaps write that slavery was not abolished until 1806, and so society at the time was very cruel to other races, and this understanding would have coloured any perceptions they may have had of Othello. So there we have just two examples, that you could fill out to create two quite nice paragraphs! Hope it helped! 
rose_noble
21 July 2015
Hiya!It looks like you've had some great tips already, but just in case, perhaps I can pop a few more ideas into the mix? Othello's fate is tragic because it is fundamentally self-inflicted, or self-prophesising. Othello's jealousy is typical of society at the time, and his own tragic weakness leads to his demise- a useful quote may be Iago 'O beware my Lord of jealousy'. Indeed, T.S Eliot wrote of Othello that his fate was a 'terrible exposure of human weakness' His race also means tragedy for Othello; for at the time, a relationship between races was viewed as strange and doomed to fail. Iago constantly points at Othello's 'otherness' and alien-ness, labelling him a 'lascivious moor'. Whereas Desdemona's pale complexion is described in language that couldn't be more polar opposite- 'so tender, fair and happy'. Dr Johnson, a critic of the time stated that the play was 'a very useful moral, not to make an unequal match'. This is great time to put some context in your answer, perhaps write that slavery was not abolished until 1806, and so society at the time was very cruel to other races, and this understanding would have coloured any perceptions they may have had of Othello. So there we have just two examples, that you could fill out to create two quite nice paragraphs! Hope it helped! 
rose_noble
21 July 2015
Add an answer Cancel reply