Shakespeare is associated with exhibiting the theme of tragedy in his works in an explicit manner. The Classical tragedy is characterized by the fall of an individual that was famous or exhibited unique skills or other factors that distinguished them from other people (Walker, 2010). It is worth noting that the tragedy is often affiliated to Ancient Athens such that the people involved are legends. The protagonist would undergo immense pressure or opposition whereby the fall would be associated with heroism or rather a victory by overcoming the opposing forces (Walker, 2010). Also, some of the tragedy of Othello characters and archetypes related to the protagonist experience tragedy because of the relationship. They become victims of circumstances and hence take part in tragic events. Furthermore, the audience is left in suspense or with a lot of questions when the drama winds up (Heilman, 2015). So, answering the question what kind of tragedy is Othello, Othello by Shakespeare presents an Aristotelian classical strategy whereby the protagonist is faced with a lot of pressure such that the play ends tragically.
The Tragedy of Othello: Plot Summary
The plot of the story begins in Venice in a conversation between Lago and Roderigo, who is a man of high status. Roderigo had initially sorted betrothal for Desdemona through the help of Lago. However, he received information that Desdemona was married to Othello and hence was infuriated. Lago, on the other hand, did not like Othello with the view that he outranked him and hence driven by envy. Lago tells Roderigo that he despises Othello for outranking him in the lieutenant position; a position that he preferred Michael Cassio to occupy. The mission is to inform Brabantio of the marriage between Othello and Desdemona as Desdemona was his daughter. Brabantio was the senator and hence quite influential. According to the information given to Brabantio, Othello had stolen Desdemona and forcefully married her. After Brabantio discovers that his daughter is missing, he sends officers to go and arrest Othello and bring back his daughter. To hide his betrayal, Lago sneaks away to go and inform Othello and Desdemona of Brabantio’s search. As soon as Cassio informs Othello of the service needed from him regarding the Turkish invasion, Brabantio arrives with his men whereby he accuses him of using witchcraft to take his daughter. The men follow Othello to the Duke when they learn about Othello's call from the Duke. At the Duke’s premises, Othello is questioned about taking Desdemona. Othello states that the marriage is through love and not witchcraft. De explains that Desdemona was drawn to his stories about his adventures and hence falling in love with him. Desdemona shows up and defends her husband whereby she states that she now answered to Othello and not anyone else and that she loves her husband. Unexpectedly, both the Senate and the Duke empathize with Othello and hence allow the marriage.
Therefore, the plan by Brabantio fails to come through which makes him frustrated. After, the meeting with the Senate takes place whereby Othello is expected to travel the same night to Cyprus to assist in bringing down the Turkish invasion. Desdemona insists on following her husband to Cyprus and hence arrangements are made regarding their departure. Lago perceives the opportunity as appropriate for getting rid of Othello. He advises Roderigo to follow them if he still had hopes for winning back Desdemona. Cassio's clasping the hand of Desdemona when greeting her gives him the idea of making a story out of it for Othello and Desdemona to break up (Shakespeare, 2012). He wants to implicate Desdemona with the end goal that Othello believes that his significant other was taking part in an extramarital entanglement. At to start, Othello does not accept for there's any evidence and also with the view that his wife loves him to engage in such an act. In any case, in the wake of being given Desdemona's handkerchief, a material that had inadvertently tumbled off from her when strolling, Othello believes Lagos sentiments. Furthermore, his insecurity about the type of man that he was to be loved by Desdemona increases his doubts.
Both Othello and Lago anticipate the demise of Desdemona and Cassio. In the wake of listening to cry from Cassio, Othello sees that the arrangement is being executed and consequently slaughters his better half. Before the demise, Othello had engaged in a gruesome argument with his wife who insisted that she was innocent and was unaware of the accusations. Emilia, Lago's wife, also backs her up. Cassio had cried in the wake of being wounded by Lago on his leg after a fizzled assault on Roderigo whereby Roderigo overpowered him. When Othello tells Emilia what he had done, Emilia fills the gaps regarding Lagos plans and tells Othello how the handkerchief had been discovered. Lago realizes that he is being implicated and hence kills Emilia and runs away. However, he gets caught. Meanwhile, Othello contemplates what he had done to his wife whereby he states, one that loved not wisely but too well (Shakespeare 2012) before wounding himself and dying next to Desdemona. The play ends with the order of Lago to be executed (Shakespeare, 2012).
Elements of Tragedy in Othello
The Aristotelian concept of tragedy lies with the aspects of time, place, and action. The analogy is that the entire tragedy should take place at a specific time of the day, a particular place in addition to being one story (Garcia & Angel, 2004). What about Othello’s characteristics of tragedy, the play observes these rules whereby the first Act takes place in Venice which is found within the vicinity of Cypress. It is worth noting that the play takes in times that are unspecified. However, the major scenes seem to depict the various times of the day. The play begins in Venice with the elopement of Desdemona that takes place after midnight. The following scene is the Senate meeting that is held in the early hours of the morning. The following scene depicts the morning hours in Cyprus whereby the characters experience a storm and land in Cyprus during the afternoons. Other developments also take place in the afternoon. Also, the consequential drinking takes place in the evening which is followed by the murder that takes place during bedtime. Succinctly, the plot of the play does not take place in a single day as that would be illogical. However, the time lapses provided by Shakespeare are what make up a whole day. Also, the hero has to end up in misery regardless of the extent of his goodness or badness (Garcia & Angel, 2004). Therefore Othello's demise aligns with the Aristotelian concept of tragedy.
Who Is Responsible for the Tragedy of Othello?
The scenes of the play tend to be unified as they revolve around Othello's demise and the individuals associated with the demise. The play can be perceived as a classical tragedy as it ends with the fall of the protagonist (Mardiha, 2013). However, it can be argued that it deviates slightly from the perspective of heroes dying for a greater good whereby the opposing forces are not their own cause. For Othello, he takes part in his fall whereby he’s driven by insecurity which leads to his death. Despite Desdemona declaring her love for him, he looks down on himself and finds it strange that she can be with a man like him. During one of his contemplations, he states, I am not attractive," "I am not worthy of Desdemona," "It cannot be true that she really loves me," and "If she loves me, then there must be something wrong with her, (Shakespeare, 2012). He experiences these thoughts after Lago tells him of Desdemona's affair.
What Did the Tragedy of Othello Really Have to Say About Women?
Othello as a tragedy of misunderstanding depicted when some of the characters become victims of circumstances (Hunt, 2008). A character that falls after becoming a victim of circumstances is Desdemona. Her marriage to Othello is not well-taken by everyone such that it becomes a tool for Othello's demise. Her father, Brabantio even goes to the extent of taking the matter to court because of his perception of Othello. According to Brabantio, the only way that Desdemona would accept Othello is through witchcraft. Lago, driven with his vengeance after Othello had outranked him, uses her to propagate Othello's fall after he witnesses a greeting between Cassio and Desdemona when they arrive in Cyprus. He decides to incriminate Desdemona by making up a story that Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio. At first, Othello does not believe it because of the love he had for his wife. However, after giving Desdemonas a handkerchief with the perspective that she had left it with Cassio, Othello gets into a trance and then plans to murder both Cassio and Desdemona. All along, Desdemona is unaware of the accusations such that she keeps on defending herself. Nonetheless, she dies in the process with her husband as her killer. Her innocence throughout the play makes her a victim of circumstances. The same case applies to Emilia, Lago's wife. Lago kills her after she becomes fully aware of her husband's plan (Hunt, 2008). She is the one who informs Othello on how Lago got hold of the handkerchief. Lago kills her and then runs away and hence becomes a victim of circumstances. Last but not least, Roderigo also becomes a victim of circumstances because of his love for Desdemona. Lago uses his emotions as a weapon for pulling down Othello. Lago includes him in a plan to kill Cassio. After failing to kill Cassio, Lago kills him in order to hide the truth regarding his plans for Othello (Heilman, 2015).
As stated earlier, Othello by William Shakespeare presents an Aristotelian classical strategy whereby the protagonist is faced with a lot of pressure such that the play ends tragically; with the character's death. It is worth noting that the play depicts the Aristotelian concept of tragedy whereby it lies with the aspects of time, place, and action. Also, the scenes of the play tend to be unified as they revolve around Othello's demise and the individuals associated with the demise and hence a classical tragedy as it ends with the fall of the protagonist. However, it deviates slightly from the normal concept of heroic tragedies whereby the protagonist is the source of his own failure. Also, similarly to any tragedy, some characters become victims of circumstances such that they also fall with the protagonist; good examples are Desdemona, Roderigo, and Emilia who die as the play winds up.
Garcia L. & Angel J. (2004). "Aristotle's Poetics". SSRN Electronic Journal, n. pag. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
Heilman, R. B. (2015). Magic in the Web: Action and Language in Othello. University Press of Kentucky.
Hunt, M. (2008). Shakespeare, His Contemporaries, and the Religions of His Time. Religion and the Arts, 12(4), 585-601.
Mardiha, M. (2013). The Analysis of Shakespeare's Othello; A Study of Contrast between English and Persian Translation. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL) Volume 1, Issue 1, PP: 20-29
Shakespeare, W. (2012). Othello. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.
Walker, V. (2010). Michael Cassio as a Foil to Shakespeare's Othello. Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 2.02. http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=163
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