Othello, the Moor of Venice


Othello, The Moor of Venice by Shakespeare is a play that demonstrates the impacts of control and problems arising from it. Themes such as jealousy, betrayal, love and racism are widely brought out in Shakespeare’s play. It is essential to research for adequate evidence to prove that the play is truly a tragedy. Moreover, it’s also important to investigate whether there is sufficient evidence to consider Othello a tragic hero and the play an Aristotelian tragedy. According to Blake (1971) People like Leavis describe Othello as “egotistical” whereas others like Bradley consider him Shakespeare’s most romantic hero (181). It is also vital to determine why Othello should be categorized as a tragic hero and discuss the tragedies present in the play. Othello, the Moor of Venice is a William Shakespeare play often well thought-out as a tragic play. In accordance with Aristotle, the play can be categorized as an Aristotelian tragedy based on Aristotle’s meaning of Tragic plays, thus, making Othello a tragic hero (Blake 181).                                           


Othello, the Moor of Vernice will be carefully analyzed and discussed as a tragic play so as to bring out the play themes. The validity of Aristotle’s opinion of the play being tragic has to be determined. Basically, the main objective is to determine the relevance of the play as a tragic hero. Books relevant to the topic will be used to gather information necessary for achieving the objective of the study.


Thomas (2002) argues that Aristotle considers a tragic story to be one that has a tragic hero, events lead to one another, and the events occur unexpectedly. The tragic hero in the story is expected to be someone of high social profile, noble, someone with flaws and eventually falls at the end of the story (xi). In accordance with Thomas (2002) Othello, the Moor of Vernice play by Shakespeare has several characters who commit suicide whereas others are killed. Iago sets out to avenge on Cassio for being granted the promotion position that he had eagerly longed for. This marks the beginning of consistent tragedies that follow. Cassio is tricked into drinking by Iago who provokes a fight between Cassio and Roderigo resulting to the arrest of the former (xii).

Moreover, the fight results to Cassio’s tragic demotion leaving Iago really impressed. In the same line of thought, Cassio is persuaded by Iago to pay Desdemona a visit and convince her to request Othello to restore his lieutenant position. Surprisingly, this was one of Iago’s schemes toward revenge because he rushes to call Othello to bear witness of the conversation between his wife and Cassio. Apparently, Iago aims at convincing Othello of the unfaithfulness of the wife and creating doubts that his wife has been fooling around with Cassio. As if that was not bad enough, Iago later on plants Othello’s wife handkerchief in Cassio’s room so as to infuriate and make Othello jealous. Eventually, his plan works out and Othello begins his revenge mission against Cassio (Thomas 4).

  In scene 1 lines (25-27), Roderigo is attacked and wounded by Cassio for attempting to murder him on behalf of Othello though he fails.  Nevertheless, Cassio does not know that the man he tried to kill was Iago’s accomplice. In addition, when Cassio screams for help, Iago shows up with light on his hand and pretends not to recognize Roderigo. Amazingly, He takes this chance to silence Roderigo for good by stabbing him to death so that he does not get him involved in the matter (Part 1 Line 67).

 A heated argument arises between Othello and Desdemona when the former confronts the latter concerning her handkerchief being in Cassio’s room. As far as Desdemona is concerned, the handkerchief got lost and is not aware of what her husband is talking about. Consequently, Othello calls his wife abusive names and accuses her of infidelity. At long last, Emilia intervenes since she is the one who had given Iago the handkerchief but Othello declines to listen to her explanation. In scene 2 line 145 Emilia vows to report Othello to the authorities when she finds out that he was responsible for Desdemona’s death (Thomas 3).

In scene 2 line 293, Emilia is stabbed by her husband to death after he realizes that she had discovered his secrets regarding several murders and tragedies that he took part in. Shortly after, Iago tries to run away but the authority catches up with him. Unfortunately, letters found in Roderigo’s corpse implicated him as the main suspect behind the numerous tragedies that have taken place. However, as Emilia died she informed Othello that Desdemona his wife was not guilty of any accusations he had made against her and all her life she loved only him.

In the long run, the truth comes out and Othello swears to kill Iago although he fails and only manages to wound him as seen in line 330 scene 2 (Beard and Lifting 77). The tragedies attain their peak in scene 2 line 410 where Othello portrays his character of being a tragic hero by stabbing himself to death when he learns that Desdemona was innocent and all the false accusations pointed at her were part of Iago’s set up in his revenge mission. Othello bends over and kisses his wife’s corpse after which he mercilessly stabs himself and falls dead by her side.

In line with this, Kirschbaum (1994) argues that Othello may be referred to as a tragic hero since he possesses a tragic flaw that results to his downfall an aspect that is common in all tragic heroes. “A tragic hero ought to be someone a prince, someone of high estate, or noble. Moreover, tragic heroes bear a tragic flaw and have a weak point in ruling” (286). Othello has been portrayed as a person of dignified birth and also held a top position as Governor-General in the Cyprus military (Kirschbaum 286). In addition, the inhabitants of Venice held Othello at a high position and therefore Othello can be considered a tragic hero (Act 1, Scene 2). In consistent with Bradley (1992) “Othello is character of heroic stature, highly admirable, and a person of good self control” (66). Reference to line 286, Shakespeare brings out Othello as a good man, who initially trusts, loves, and believes in his wife Desdemona.

Othello holds a top position as Governor- General and at the same time the inhabitant of the land place him highly. Possibly, these might be the reasons behind his flaws and eventual downfall. As a matter of fact, Othello possesses the flaw of being over trusting and jealous especially regarding his wife Desdemona. Othello’s flaws are well demonstrated when he appoints Cassio in the position of lieutenant instead of Iago.

Consequently, his unwise decision provokes resentment between Cassio and Iago which creates consecutive tragedies resulting to everyone’s downfall. Actually, it is as a result of this resentment that Iago sets up Cassio and Desdemona. The conflict intensifies and Othello ends up killing his wife as well as himself (Beard and Lifting 78).  In consistent with Blake (1971) the play Othello by William Shakespeare can be categorized as an Aristotle tragedy because it involves a tragic hero Othello. This is given to the reason that a tragic play must have a tragic hero with flaws (185).

In addition, the occurrence of events in the play is unpredictable just like it should be in an Aristotelian tragedy play. For instance, no one expected that Iago would murder his accomplice Roderigo. Moreover, it was unexpected that Iago would be driven by extreme jealousy to an extent of setting up and taking revenge against his close confidant and friend Cassio for being appointed in his place. In this context, no one would have imagined that Othello was capable of killing his wife Desdemona considering the intense love he had for her. Initially, Othello trusted and believed in his wife and there were no signs of possibilities of him distrusting her and giving into someone else’s claims. In addition, one tragedy in the play led to another as in the case of tragic plays. Othello stabs himself to death on discovering that he had killed his wife for no reason. Additionally, Iago kills his wife Emilia simply because she had discovered that he was involved in Rodirego’s death and other unlawful activities (Blake 183). 

Besides Othello, Shakespeare has had other plays reflecting tragedy with the specifics of hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear among others. Taking the example of Hamlet set in the kingdom of Denmark, Hamlet is set to avenge for his deceased father believing that he would become the king. Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet are finally found dead owing to the flaws by Hamlet that drove his actions. So to speak, Hamlet is a character of noble birth that has flaws while avenging and as a result, this leads to the numerous deaths mentioned.


Othello, the Moor of Venice a story by William Shakespeare can be categorized as a tragic story since there are a number of tragedies that take place in the story. As a result of Iago’s resentment and anger towards Cassio, and intense desire to take revenge against him for being appointed by Othello as his new lieutenant instead of him, quite a lot of people end up dying. Under this circumstance, Iago plots a set up against Cassio by making Othello believe that he was having an affair with his wife Desdemona. This is part of Iago’s revenge against his supposed friend Cassio.

Apparently the plan succeeds and Othello is filled with anger and vengeance against his wife and Cassio. Iago murdered Roderigo in order to eliminate him and ensure that he does not expose the secret of him being instructed by Othello to murder Cassio. Consequently, when his wife Emilia discovers these tragedies he also eliminates her to preserve his secret. Following the accusations of infidelity made against Desdemona by Iago to Othello, Desdemona gets into a heated argument with her husband Othello. Thus, her husband murders her out of anger and rage. Toward the end of the story, Othello discovers that his wife was innocent of all accusations; therefore, He gets overwhelmed by emotions and stabs himself to death.

The story Othello by Shakespeare can be classified as an Aristotle tragic because it bears all the qualities of a tragic story as described by Aristotle. The story has a tragedy hero Othello who can be identified by possession of flaws which cause his eventual down fall. Othello’s jealousy and strong love for his wife serve as his flaws that lead him to the grave. Furthermore, the man is also Governor-General and the inhabitants hold him so highly.  In addition, events in the story are unpredictable and expected. Notably, the events occur as a result of one another. Basically, the occurrence of one event leads to the occurrence of another. It may therefore be concluded that Othello; the Moor of Vernice by Shakespeare may be categorized as an Aristotelian tragic hero.

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