Research Paper: Searching

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[. . .] iii.477). Part of what makes Iago such an interesting character is the fact that his behavior is shocking.

It should also be noted how much Iago and Othello have in common. Hermann Ulrici notes:

All that has been falsely said of Othello, applies only to his manifest opposite, Iago. He is the whitewashed, hypocritical power of evil -- his is a selfish, half-animal nature, which is unable to control its desires and passions simply because it has never made the attempt. The mere semblance of virtue easily deceives the open unsuspecting Othello. He, indeed, is the prey of a vulgar jealousy. (Ulrici)

When we consider this perspective, we can see how Shakespeare worked with the personalities of Othello and Iago in combination to create a deeper level of complexity to the play.

Within a very short time frame, Iago has successfully managed to turn Othello into a monster, while keeping himself free from any blame. Omer observes that the conversations between Iago and Othello "may rank among the greatest displays of persuasive skills ever penned" (Omer). Indeed, Othello trusts Iago over Desdemona. Interestingly, Othello illustrates his nature through his reactions. Simply put, where her trusts, he trusts completely; where his distrusts, he distrusts completely. Hesitation is almost impossible to him. Bradley adds that Othello "is extremely self-reliant, and decides and acts instantaneously" (Bradley). This aspect of Othello's character allows us to see Othello's consistency. This aspect also meets the requirement of Aristotle's definition of tragedy.

Othello compounds the situation by doubting his self-worth. For example, he says:

Haply for I am black

And have not those soft parts of conversation

That chambers have... I am abused, my relief

Must be to loathe her (Shakespeare III.iii.260-5).

Through Othello, we witness the genius of Shakespeare. Othello has changed from a loving husband and great warrior to jealous, murdering husband. We love him; we hate him; we feel sorry for him. Ulrici says of this sad state of affairs:

Othello has always appeared to me the most fearful of all Shakespeare's tragedies.... My sympathies are as much repelled as attracted by it. The emotions it excites resemble those with which we regard the men who, while they irresistibly attract us by the powers and splendour of their genius, alienate us no less forcibly by their character and disposition. (Ulrici)

Finally, Shakespeare has presented Othello as a tragic hero by having Othello finally realize his own flaw in addition to Iago's true character. Because he does realize what he has done, he partially redeems himself. He tells Lodovico that the one who killed Desdemona "was Othello; Here I am" (Shakespeare V.ii.281). Additionally, he asks how Iago could trap his soul and body. (V.ii.299). Of course, it is too late to do anything, but Othello does see the light.

He admits that he "loved not wisely, but too well" (V.ii.240). Othello recognizes the terrible thing he has done, but he is not a terrible person. This prompts pity from the audience. Similarly, Iago has completely destroyed Othello's life, which instills fear within the audience that such an evil person could ever exist. These qualities fulfill the Aristotelian requirements of a tragedy.

In conclusion, Shakespeare paints a tragic portrait when he presents Othello to us. The play follows Aristotle's requirements for a tragedy and Othello's character follows the requirements for a tragic hero. Othello is a strong, noble warrior in the beginning of the play. He is confident and worthy of our appreciation. His tragic flaw of gullibility and jealousy made him human. In other words, he is not too good or too bad. Iago, a character that adds complexity to the play, seizes upon his humanity. Othello realizes his weaknesses and mistakes and feels the worst remorse and regret. These elements work together to create the pity and the fear that Aristotle felt were necessary to complete the perfect tragedy.

Works Cited

Aristotle, Poetics. Trans S.H. Butcher. MIT Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.html. Site Accessed March 01, 2004.

Bradley A.C. "Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on 'Hamlet,' 'Othello,' 'King Lear,' 'Macbeth.' 1904. Site Accessed October 23, 2003. http://www.infotrac.com

Cantor, Paul A. Othello. "Southwest Review." 1990. Site Accessed October 23, 2003. http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=9608042302&db=aph

Muir, Kenneth. Othello: Introduction. New York: Penguin Books. 1968.

Omer, Haim. "Doctor Iago's treatment of Othello." American Journal of Psychotherapy. 1991. http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=9602291030&db=aphSite Accessed October 25, 2003.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Kenneth Muir, ed. New York: Penguin Books. 1968.

Ulrici, Hermann. "Shakspeare's Dramatic Art: And His Relation to Calderon and Goethe." A.J.W. Morrison, trans. 1846. Gale Database. http://www.infotrac.comSite Accessed March 1, 2004. [END OF PREVIEW]

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