To what extent is Othello responsible for his own downfall?
Aristotle said that “A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” This statement is exemplified in Shakespeare’s Othello where Othello as the tragic hero is to some extent responsible for his own downfall. Othello cannot be totally blamed for his own downfall because of Iago’s creation of an alternative world filled with lies, in which is consequently consumed by the trusting and naive Othello. Thus, Othello’s downfall comes about due to the combination of the influence of Iago and the fatal flaws of Othello. It becomes clear to the audience that through using a tragic hero and his downfall, Shakespeare does not intend us to admire Othello, but to essentially identify ourselves with him.
As a tragic hero, Othello has many fatal flaws which contribute to his own downfall. Othello, at the start of the play, is undoubtedly a noble character. He is "of royal siege," an essential requirement for the heritage-obsessed Elizabethans, and is a rigidly brave figure, refusing to run from the threat of a mob sent to find him, instead declaring "not I - I must be found" in determining to face the threat bravely. His language bears this out, too, and he speaks in blank verse, the format that Shakespeare reserves for his high class characters. Thus, it can be confidently said that Othello is essentially a ‘good’ character, a soldier, trained to identify and kill the enemy. However, as a tragic hero, he has fatal flaws, one of which is that he is so gullible and cannot identify Iago as an enemy, often seeking his counsel and referring to him as noble and “honest Iago.” The growing ambiguity between fiction and fact is the catalyst for Othello’s tragic downfall. Iago realises that he can manipulate Othello for his own gains because Othello is too “free and open nature” who too trusting and expects everyone around him to be the same way. Here, it gives the audience an insight into his deceptive and evil character, ready to catalyse the downfall of Othello.
A fundamental element to the downfall of Othello is his insecurities and lack of self knowledge. Othello's greatest weaknesses are targeted by Iago as the perfect tool for his revenge. Thus, Othello is not completely to blame for his downfall. Othello's sincerity and goodness makes him easy prey, as he cannot envisage such evil and “thinks men honest that but seem to be so.” Even before Iago has begun his ‘web of manipulations,’ Othello struggles to control his emotions for his new wife Desdemona. He does not believe himself worthy of such a woman and believes that without her love he is sentenced to “eternal damnation.” Whenever he is absent from Desdemona, Othello fears “chaos comes again.” However due to his “tragic flaw,” his jealousy, this noble character is transformed into...