Othello is, without a doubt, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic heroes. He fills every sense of the word, beginning as a character nearly without flaws but evolving into a misled, pitiful disgrace whose sense of justice has been warped by the darkness of Iago. Even the flaws he is stricken with are those that may seem praise-worthy in some. Throughout the entirety of the play Othello has one supreme goal, subconscious or otherwise, in mind: As a general and as a man, he desires to rule militarily, socially, and romantically, with justice and without passion. This ‘passion’ refers to the calmness and balanced judgment required of such a figure as Othello. When we first meet Othello in person, he is immediately stricken as our hero. He loves with all of his soul, lives to uphold justice, and apparently governs without emotion tainting his mind. However, as the play continues, he degrades into less of a paragon and into a shell of a hero struck down by tragedy. His jealousy is spurred on by that which he vowed to never let rule him; his passion. Othello becomes little more than a puppet on a string, a powerful sword swung by Iago’s arm.
Shakespeare’s Othello is filled with flawed characters. From the beginning of the play we as the audience are set upon by a love-stricken fool with Roderigo and a temperamental father with Brabantio. It seems almost as if Shakespeare wishes us as an audience to connect with the least flawed character given to us. We immediately latch onto Othello, the brave war-hero. We feel insulted and angered by Brabantio’s accusations against him. Perhaps it is the differing color of his skin that makes our connection with him all the stronger. In any case, we are presented with Othello, the greatest character in our sight. In Act I, we side with him the most as he defends his relationship with Desdemona before the Venetian senators.
… Upon this hint I spake.
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used.
Here comes the lady. Let her witness it. (I.iii.166-170)
What Othello says here positions the base for which Shakespeare is set to mold the audience’s emotions. Othello not only defends his relationship with Desdemona, but he defends himself, his honor. He even sets Desdemona on equal footing with him, inviting Desdemona to speak for herself against her father. This act shows the trust that Othello shares with Desdemona, the depth of their relationship. But why set up such deep and powerful emotions so early on in the play? It is because we are made to avert our eyes, scream protests in our minds, feel hatred for Iago, as Othello slowly disintegrates out of this perfect persona we are presented with. Othello follows a very backward development as a character. He begins as the most perfect we will ever see him, slowly degrading into being just as jealous and ignorant as Roderigo.
Even without Iago’s dark tendrils worming their way through his...