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Posted on April 11th, 2014, by

All the plans of Iago work perfectly until the resolution of conflict comes. As Taxidou (111) states, “a climax is a moment of great intensity in the plot of a literary work, generally bringing events to a head and leading to the conclusion.” Othello comes to the room of Desdemona at night to pay revenge for her betrayal. Being blinded by his rage, he does not listen to the wife’s arguments. She has lost her authority for him, and the only truth for him is the truth he knows (is sure to know). Soon Desdemona is smothered to death by strong and uncontrolled hands of the Moor. However, even Desdemona’s death itself is not the most tragic moment. The true resolution is the moment when Othello gets to know the truth from Emilia. His first wish is to kill the one to blame for his downfall, but instead he decides to condemn Iago to long-term sufferings. It is unbearable for Othello to realize that he has destroyed his love and happiness by his own hands, literally, and therefore he commits suicide by a sword.

Tragic Hero

By Aristotle, tragic hero is always a character of noble stature and origin. As for high status position, Othello really occupies it. On the one hand, he is a Moor and it is a reason of certain stereotypes arising. The society was rather skeptical to the men different in religion and in skin color, so in the play, even before the conflict appears, there is enough prejudice from the side of the society to interfere Othello with his welfare. Still, in the play he is described as an exotic and romantic figure who has succeeded in military career and provokes respect. As Desdemona falls in love with him, the reader or viewer also accepts him through her eyes. Though the tragic hero is pre-eminently great, he/she is not perfect,” Aristotle warned (as cited in Carlson 91). It means that to feel closer to the character, the reader or viewer must on the one hand admire the personage and at the same time identify themselves with this personage. Alike, Othello is a human being with his shortcomings. The special feature of tragedy is that in tragedy such shortcomings often become his “hamartias”, or tragic flaws. Just as Aristotle discussed it, Othello’s jealousy and passion becomes his tragic flaws because they make him make a critical error. His judgments are based on misinformation, but he is not reasoned enough to check everything by himself. In this way, Othello’s downfall results from his own fault, as Adler (134) specifies. The increase in awareness makes up the fall of Shakespeare’s tragic hero.

The audience’s catharsis

According to Aristotle, the main mission of a tragedy is to make the audience go through unhealthy, negative, but solemn emotions (like pity, sorrow and fear) to cause catharsis. Catharsis is “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions” (Banham 324) explains. It means that the main function of tragedy is to release negative feelings from a person and make it feel better afterwards. In Othello the audience is a witness of unfair suffering. There are blameless victims like Desdemona, and there is a protagonist for who the compassion is felt. His feelings are understood as they are typical for most of the people. Although his behavior was grotesquely reckless, his powerlessness caused by belated awareness is a strong factor for grief and further relief.


Aristotle’s concept of tragedy has been successfully applied to the interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice. The action of the play and its conflict are developed in accordance with the best anticipations of any theorist. Othello, the protagonist of the play, has all the necessary traits of a tragic hero. Uneasy and exciting peripeteias lead the audience to the climax and the way the conflict is resolved leads to the relief and catharsis. The research was based on scholar sources’ content regarding drama theory as well as the plot of Shakespeare’s Othello itself.

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