Othello: Characters Bring About Their Own Demise
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As in almost all tragedies, especially those of William Shakespeare, the tragic hero always runs into misfortune. The play Othello is no exception. In this play, every character acquainted with the tragic hero appears to be unfortunate. While these misfortunes are oddly related to Othello, are they his fault or did each character attract them out of their own actions? To answer this daunting question, one must consider the three most unfortunate characters: Othello, Desdamona and Roderigo and analyse their downfall which eventually lead to their deaths. It is known from reading the play that Iago is the one who manipulates all three of them. Examinations of their connection with him before their deaths are necessary to answer this question. After scrutinizing those three characters it is apparent that all of the characters who experience misfortune in Othello bring it on themselves.
The protagonist and tragic hero of this play is Othello, the moor of Venice. From the beginning of the play, Othellos actions or assumed actions have influenced, either directly or indirectly, his fate. In the first scene, we learn that Othello has promoted Cassio to be his new Lieutenant rather than the seemingly fit Iago, much to Iagos disdain, “I have already chose my officer./ And what was he?/ Forsooth, a great arithmetician,/ One Michael Cassio, a Florentine.”(I, i, ll.18-21). This is one of Othellos first actions in the play and also one of the most influential to his fate. Iago henceforth dedicates himself to ruining Othellos life. While Iagos actions are questionable even under circumstances such as not being promoted, he decides that he must do all he can to achieve his goal. Iago lacks motivation for his morbid actions, which is possibly why he is known as one of the most villainous antagonists in any of Shakespeares work. Othello is also believed to have slept with Emilia, according to Iago. This is an accusation which is utterly fraudulent but believed to be accurate by Iago when he says, “It is thought abroad that twixt my sheets / He has done my office” (I, iii, ll.369-370). This supposed action of Othello is another provocation and reason for his downfall. The third and chief action of Othello applies not only to the tragic hero, but almost every other character in the play. Othellos tendency to trust Iago ultimately leads to his downfall more so than any other cause. If he hadnt trusted Iago, or had merely been sceptical of Iagos information or intent, the outcome would have been outrageously different. Before speaking with Iago about Desdamona and her supposed infidelity to her husband, Othello was happy and trusted and loved Desdamona. Upon planting a seed of doubt in Othellos mind, Iago was able to manipulated Othello and the other characters to frame Desdamonas affair with Cassio. If Othello hadnt been such a poor judge of character and even investigated a minute amount into the matter instead of sending Iago to do it, he would have caught Iago for the villain he was. Of course, Iago was confident from the moment the play started that Othello would trust him to the end of the earth, so Othello was fair game for deceit and coercion.
Desdamona is another pawn in Iagos plan to ruin Othellos life. Her independent nature is a quality that leads to indirect manipulation from Iago. She did not agree with Cassios dismissal and Iago uses that her exhibit of independence as reason to get Cassio and Desdamona talking and make Othello worry. Othello of course sees this as an act of infidelity after a few visits from Iago. This independence is also mirrored when Othello confronts her about her infidelity, she abjures it and this only makes Othello furious and more dubious. Othello hits her and she tries to defend her character by saying, “I have not deserved this” (IV, I, 36). Contrasting her independence is her somewhat less apparent submissiveness. This is brutally evident in the final scene of the play when Desdamona is killed by Othello. Instead of screaming for help or