Othello And Aristotelian Poetics

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Othello And Aristotelian Poetics

Tragedies frequently focus on a tragic hero that has a flaw that ultimately
leads to his downfall. That flaw is commonly referred to as a tragic flaw that
is inborn to the person and can reflect his background. In Aristotle's Poetics,
he discusses the theory of tragedy and what criteria is essential in an ideal
tragedy. According to Aristotle, the tragic flaw is the most important part of
the hero and the events that occur in the work is a reflection of that flaw. A
tragic flaw is essential in a true tragedy. In William Shakespeare's Othello,

Othello is a prime example of an Aristotelian tragic hero. His gullibility and
jealousy are the main reason of his downfall. Othello deals with love lost
because of gullibility and jealousy. Aristotle's theory of tragedy, found in the

Poetics, deals with the characteristics of plays that make them a true tragedy.

Those characteristics are essential in giving a play its true definition.

According to Aristotle, the life and soul of tragedy is plot. Incidents in the
plot have the best effect if they occur unexpectedly, and in consequence of one
another. A great tragedy grips the audience with the plot. Aristotle also states
that the sense of the inevitable must be present in tragedy. The tragic hero is
also another important factor in an Aristotelian tragedy. The central character
must be noble and have a higher stature than most men. The tragic hero must also
have better qualities than secondary characters but must also exhibit flaws. The
most important part of an Aristotelian tragic hero is the tragic flaw. The flaw
is inborn to the person. He must have that flaw throughout his life and it will
play the primary role in his downfall. The flaw can also reflect the tragic
hero's background. Another part of the central character is that he is destroyed
by himself, not by others, bad luck, or depravity. These are the criteria
necessary to be classified as a ideal tragedy. Othello meets the criteria to be
called an Aristotelian tragedy. The main character of Othello is a classical
example of a tragic hero. His basic elements matches him up to a true hero as
defined by Aristotle. Othello was a soldier all his life. Due to his Moorish
descent, he experienced many things that a normal Venetian didn't experience.

His nobility and rank of a general made him of a higher stature than anyone
else. His nobility and background made him a greatly respected person. That
nobility also what attracted Desdemona, his wife. Othello also exhibited great
leadership qualities that he earned in the field of battle and by being a leader
in Venice. Othello's background also was of a unsophisticated one. He came from
a land of bartering and barbarians. His background affected his attitude.

Othello was a person that was innocent and base in nature. He was influenced by
the way his life was going on. Othello's statement, "Perdition catch my
soul but I do love thee. And when I love thee not, chaos is come
again."(act 3, sc. 3, line 100), showed that he felt his life was only in
order if he is loved. His innocence and lack of sophistication is revealed in
this statement. The people around him also knew of Othello's attitude. Iago was
very quick to see this. In his first soliloquy, Iago said "the moor is of a
free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so."
(1,3,442) Iago knew of Othello's weakness. Othello's innocence and baseness made
him susceptible to being undermined by people. Iago also reveals his plan to use
the moor's gullibility against him. Othello was clearly a person who believed
appearances versus reality. When Othello was told about an affair between

Desdemona and Cassio, he started to become jealous. Being that person who
believes appearances, he wanted ocular proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Even a
superficial piece of evidence would have been sufficient. In his statement,
"Give me a living reason she is disloyal."(3,3,446), Othello revealed
that he would believe in anything he saw. This is a clear example of his
gullibility and that appearances could fool him. Othello's words is the
underlying statement that determined his feelings. The tragic flaw of
gullibility would lead his feelings to make bad judgments. All of his
characteristics made him a clear Aristotelian tragic hero as discussed in the

Poetics. Othello's tragic flaw of gullibility is exposed throughout the course
of the play. He also developed a jealousy that was

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