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Posted on April 11th, 2014, by

Thesis Statement

Othello, the Moor of Venice is one of the globally recognized masterpieces by William Shakespeare. Its genre is traditionally defined as tragedy. Although the term of tragedy has a long history, it has saved most of its original characteristics on the one hand and has acquired new traits on the other hand. According to the traditional classification, there are such types of tragedy as ancient tragedy, roman tragedy, renaissance tragedy, neo-classical tragedy, modern and post-modern tragedy. Each of these types differs from the traditional definition in some way. However, it is useful to verify any tragedy by description Aristotle has provided in his Poetics (335 BCE). This research paper will analyze Shakespeare’s Othello as a tragedy the way Aristotle understood it. For that aim, the concept of a tragic hero will be applied to Othello’s character. In the Shakespeare’s work, Othello reveals as a controversial character, and his behavior can be interpreted in different ways.

Aristotle’s concept of tragedy can be treated in several ways. While some of the researchers see the downfall of Othello as a reason of his hasty actions, this paper will make more stress on his nature and unfavorable circumstances he got in. His hot southern blood together with trustfulness will be approached as the main tragic flaw (or “hamartia”¯, as Aristotle defined it) of Othello. What is more, the effect of Shakespeare’s tragedy on the audience will be discussed to understand why it corresponds to the interpretation provided by Aristotle in the fourth century before our era.



Conflict in Shakespeare’s tragedy

Peripeteias leading to tragic outcomes

Abruptness of climax

Tragic Hero

The audience’s catharsis

Research Paper

Conflict in Shakespeare’s tragedy

First of all, it is necessary to identify the conflict of the play, as it creates the main tension and moves the story forward to the development and resolution. Conflict is defined as “a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns”¯ (Pfister 36). The conflict of the Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is revealed from the very beginning. It is based on the negative feelings of Iago and Roderigo to Othello, the protagonist of the play. Iago is Othello’s trusted ensign, but he is full of anger and dissatisfaction because he did not get the rank of lieutenant. Instead of Iago, Othello appointed Cassio who was not only younger, but also had no military experience. Meanwhile, Roderigo’s antipathy is the result of Othello’s secret marriage with Desdemona. Roderigo, the Venetian dissolute, planned to marry this beautiful daughter of rich and weighty Brabantio himself. Thus, both of them have enough reasons to revenge Othello and thus they make their insidious plans. In fact, Iago is the main antagonist and he reveals himself as the main coordinator of all the further actions. Roderigo, meanwhile, is only a pawn in his hands.

Peripeteias leading to tragic outcomes

It is Iago who stimulates the main peripeteias of Shakespeare’s tragedy. A peripeteia is regarded as the change of the kind described from one state of things within the plot to its opposite, as “a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances”¯ (Felski 88). Othello is happy in his marriage; he has a beloved woman adoring him; his career is successful and promising. But the day Iago informs him of Desdemona’s adultery changes his life entirely. Being absolutely under the power of Iago, he easily believes that Cassio has seduced her. Having malicious, but sharp mind, Iago prepares enough evidence for trustful Othello. He makes Othello overhear the talk between Iago himself and Cassio. While Cassio is talking about Bianka, the prostitute he spent the name with, Iago makes Othello believe that the talk was about Desdemona. Being already full of rage, Othello receives one more terrifying proof. It is one of the brightest symbolic details of the tragedy, handkerchief presented by Othello to his wife as a fastener of their engagement. Desdemona occurs to be misfortunate to lose the present, while Iago makes his wife Emilia steal it for him. Having put it in the lodgings of Cassio, he persuades poor Othello that Desdemona has herself presented it to the lieutenant.

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