Othello as a Tragedy Defined by Aristotle Research Paper

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Othello as a Tragedy Defined by Aristotle

Shakespeare's play, Othello, defines tragedy in many ways for modern audiences and ancient audiences alike. When we hold the play up to the definitions of tragedy defined by Aristotle, we see that it meets all the criteria. These criteria include an aspect of realism, a hero of high renown, a move from good fortune to bad, and the hero finally realizing his error. Othello presents us with a fantastic character in Othello in that he is the source of many emotions - love, hate, jealousy, and sorrow. Othello is also a great warrior, which is what attracts Desdemona to him; it is also what makes him a target in Iago's eyes, for he had the power to promote Iago but he did not. It is Iago's prodding that causes Othello's fatal flaw to emerge. The flaw of jealousy forces Othello to kill his beloved wife and live to regret it. Othello might be the drama that best represents Aristotle's definitions of a tragedy because it is filled with the purest forms of emotion - good and bad.

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According to Aristotle, a tragedy must reflect real life. He recognized that a drama must contain certain specific elements in order to capture and move an audience and the ability for the audience to relate is crucial. In addition, the tragic hero must be a man of great stature. A tragedy must also "imitate actions which excite pity and fear" (Aristotle). This involves the character of great renown suffering from a change of good fortune to bad fortune and this change must result from something he has done. Aristotle also thought it was important for the tragic hero to understand the gravity of what he has done as he comes face-to-face with fatal flaw. As a result, of the fatal flaw causing the tragedy, the tragic hero must experience a sense of catharsis to heighten the effect of the drama. For the sake of the audience, Aristotle thought that the best effect is produced when the turn of event is a surprise. The tragedy, according to Aristotle is driven by a fair amount of action that keeps the audience guessing and, more important, engaged with what is happening on stage. Othello meets all of the requirements and quite well.

Research Paper on Othello as a Tragedy Defined by Aristotle Assignment

Othello is a man of great character and this is established early in the play. He is a superb warrior and says:

fetch my life and being

From men of royal siege, and my demerits

May speak, unbonneted, to as proud a fortune

As this that I have reached. (I.ii.21-4)

He also tells the Duke that Desdemona "loved me for the dangers I had passed, / and I loved her, that she did pity them" (I.iii.166-7). In addition to this, Desdemona also gives us a glimpse of Othello's stature when she tells her father that her heart fell in love with Othello when she saw his "visage in my mind / and to his honors and his valiant part / Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. (I.iii.249-51). Othello certainly measures up to one of Aristotle's specifications in that he is man of great renown. Considering this definition, we can easily see how Othello measures up the Aristotle's definition of a tragedy. Elmer Stoll observes that Othello is the "grandest and noblest of Shakespeare's lovers" (Stoll 323), adding that the "highest tragic effect" (323) is that a "great and good man" (323) succumbs to the wicked Iago. Shakespeare has established the greatness of Othello's character. It is also established early that he has the power to change Iago's position by making him lieutenant, which he did not do. Here, Shakespeare is introducing us to the hero and giving Iago motive. In fact, Iago confesses to Brabantio, "Another of his fathom they have none/to lead their business" (I.i.153-4). The plot is set into motion very early in play and the plot is essential if the drama is to keep the attention of the audience.

Othello's good fortune turns sour quickly as Iago begins to act out his revenge. The bad fortune must be the result of the hero's actions. Shakespeare follows Aristotle's guidelines by… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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