In William Shakespeare's Othello, Othello is the tragic hero. He is a character of high position that is destroyed by his own people, his own actions, and his fate. His destruction is precipitated by his own actions, as well as by the actions of the characters surrounding him. The tragedy of Othello is not a fault of a single villain, but is rather a consequence of a wide range of feelings, judgments and misjudgments, and attempts for personal justification by the characters. Othello is first shown as a hero of war and a man of great pride and courage. As the play continues, his character begins to deteriorate and become less noble. In order through the play, Othello's character changes from a flawless military leader, to a murderer. He has certain traits which make him seem naive and unsophisticated compared to many other people. Iago, Othellos ancient hoped for a promotion, but Othello passed over him in favor of Cassio, and Iago works his revenge on them both. He uses Roderigo as a source of money and an unwitting accomplice in his plot to bring down Othello. In this essay I will discuss why Othello is an unethical villain and why he is an ethical hero.
Othello a Moor, a general in the defense forces of the city state of Venice. His successful profession brings him high status in Venice, but his foreign origins and color separate him from those with whom he lives and works. He is a military man, with a reputation for courage in battle and good judgment in military matters. Othello then falls in love and marries Desdemona, but during the campaign against the Turks, Othello is tricked by Iago into believing that his wife has been unfaithful with his lieutenant, Cassio. Iago works on Othellos personal and social insecurity until Othello believes the combination of Iagos lies and flimsy circumstances evidence. Inflamed with jealousy he becomes an unethical villain by smothering Desdemona in her bed only to find out too late that he has been misled and has killed the woman who loved him faithfully. In the end, he tragically kills himself in shame. By the world, I think my wife be honest, and think she is not; I think thou art just, and think thou art not, Ill have my proof. (Bloom, pg 105) When the Moor of Venice addresses this statement to his standard carrier, his downfall as a hero was already assured. When faced with the prospect of managing love and marriage, Othellos inexperience undermines his confidence. Iago finds it easy to drive Othello to jealousy and think Desdemona loves another man because he already feels that her love for him is too good to be true. Jealousy is what happen to destroy Othello. It is the emotion suggested to him by Iago, when he says, O beware jealousy; / It is the green eyd monster, whichdoth mock / That meat it feeds on. (Act 3, scene 3, Line 169-170) Iago thinks he knows jealousy, having rehearsed it in his relationship with Emilia to the extent that Emilia believes jealousy is part of the personality of men, Iagos jealousy is a poor, weak thing compared to the storm of jealousy he stirs up in Othello. Iago has noticed Othellos tendency to insecurity and overreaction, but not even Iago imagined Othello would go so far into jealousy as he did. Jealousy focuses Othellos mind so tightly on one idea, the idea that Desdemona has betrayed him with Cassio, that no other assurance or explanation can penetrate. Such an obsession cloud Othellos reason, his common sense, and his respect for justice. Othello sees Cassio as the man most Venetian girls in Desdemonas position want, and therefore, as the man she would turn to if she ceased to love her husband. In a way he is waiting for the dream to come to an end, for Desdemona to decide that she has made a mistake into marrying him. Othellos insecurities are so close to the surface that a few words of hint and innuendo from Iago can tear the confident exterior and expose his fears, desires, and tendency to violence. Othello cannot stand uncertainty; it drives him to destroy his sanity. However, once he makes a decision, he is again the military man, decisive action. Iago has to only push Othello to belief that he has been betrayed, and Othello does the rest, judging, condemning, and executing Desdemona. He is triumphant in war and in love, the hero at his greatest moment. Such triumph, in a tragedy, cannot last forever.
The ethical placement in a Shakespeare play is major for deciding that Othello is an ethical hero. The balance of Othello is dynamic; it doesnt only come from an ideal ethical hero, but from the interaction of polar forces of evil and good, passion and patience, hate and love. The play pairs and antithesis the most cold hearted villains with a strong warm hearted hero. When evil breaks loose in the play, Othello dormant passion tears him apart in a conflict of love and hate. Othellos passion explodes, most manifestly, in an epileptic fit and, most painfully, in the murder of the women he loves. Furthermore, the force of evil, working through Othello and transforming him from a gentleman into a slave of jealousy. By all this he confuses Desdemona from a self assured Venetian girl into someone that is scared of him. In a scene Othello, tells the story of his life. A fighter since his early years, he was taken by the insolent foe/ And sold to slavery. (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 136) Shakespeare makes Othello background very colorful in visual detail. Othello was withdrawn from slavery by whom and for reasons that are not revealed in the play. Therefore, he was left far from his homeland, facts which probably contributed to his career choice as a professional solider. Othello also described his adventures fighting on sea and land. He also capably presents to the Duke and the others a portrait of himself as a man who has spent almost all his life in the field as a successful, active solider. As an ethical hero, you can tell why Desdemona has fallen in love with Othello, Othello speech helps us and the Senators understand why. He implies that Desdemona would hear theses successful stories and she would, devour up my discourse. (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 149) Then, Othello explains, following an intimate tale of, some distressed stroke/ That my youth sufferd. (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 157-158) which would bring her to tears weeping in sympathy at stories so strange and pitiful, that she would declare that, she wishd/ That heaven had made her such a man. (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 162-163) Othello as an ethical hero is a combination of greatness and weakness, in his own words, an honorable murderer. (Act V, Scene 2, Line 295) After many years on campaign, Othello has come to live in Venice among the sophisticated people of the city. Senator Barbanatio has invited him into his home, and this is a revelation to the solider. He is dazzled by the comfortable life, the learned conversion, and the civilization. Othello though is an outsider who is intelligent and confident in military matters but socially insecure. He leads an intense life, going from triumph and dread. He is so different from those around him, due to the color of his skin, so he lives constantly among, but separated from, other people. On the field of battle Othello is skilled and triumphant; in the drawing room his is reluctant until Desdemona takes the lead and encourages him to tell his stories of the ethical hero he is. Othello is aware of the precarious nature of success and happiness. But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again (Act 3, scene 3, Line 91-93)
Fate is cruel to Othello, like the cruel fate of ancient Greek tragedies. Like the Greek heroes, Othello can confront this fate only with the best of his humanity. In his final speeches, Othello brings again a flash of his former greatness: his military glory, his loyalty to Venice, the intensity of his love, and his terrible realization that, by killing Desdemona, he has destroyed the best in himself. No man has full control over his life, but a man can judge himself and perform the execution and die with his love. Up to them moment he kills Desdemona, Othellos growing jealousy maddens him past the recall of reason. Upon seeing that she was innocent and that he killed her unjustly, Othello recovers. He can once again, see his life in proportion and grieve at the terrible thing that he has accomplished. In conclusion, I have discussed why Othello is an unethical villain and why he is an ethical hero.