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Othello: Tragedy

Shakespearian tragedy involves the downfall of a great man, which would eventually lead to his destruction, moving the audience, and to make them pity him.

In the course of his own destruction Othello must come to understand his own nature in a way that he did not beforehand. Othello confronts extreme loss, despair and suffering. He comes to realize that he was mistaken about Desdemona, deceived by the person he wrongly trusted. Through Othello's suffering as a result of finding he has unjustly killed what he loved most, he recovers the dignity and the nobility that he lost.

The audience knows that the tragedy will end in destruction but what the audience does not know is what will lead to the end.

Character: Desdemona:

Desdemona is the "pretty girl" of the play who woos Othello into marriage and they elope without the knowledge of her father Brabanito.

With her husband as newly appointed commander of Cyprus Desdemona goes to the recently captured city with her handmaiden who also happens to be Iago's wife.

Desdemona is described a s extremely beautiful and also has a kind soul, she knows of Cassio's loyalty to Othello and is proud when Othello promotes Cassio to lieutenant. When Othello begins to put his trust in the scheming Iago his behavior becomes more erratic and when Cassio and Roderigo get into a barfight and Othello demotes Cassio Desdemona is there to remind Othello of Cassio's loyalty to him.

This makes Othello suspicious of Desdemona's ability to uphold her vows of marriage and he begins to ponder whether or not Iago was being truthful about Desdemona and Cassio's love affair.

When the handkerchief is taken by Emilia and given to Iago this is too much for Othello as the combination Iago's lies begin to sink in and Othello is sent over the edge and he agrees to be apart of Iago's plan to kill Cassio and Desdemona.

Desdemona is asleep in her bed when Othello covertly enters her room and questions her loyalty to him, naturally she denies any kind of infidelity but unfortunately Othello has been brainwashed and no matter what Desdemona says she is smothered by Othello.

Character profile: Iago

Iago was looking forward to a promotion and when he found out that instead of Othello promoting him to lieutenant he was passed over by Michael Cassio. This contributes to Iago's behaviour throughout the play and to make matters worse Iago believes that his wife Emilia is having an affair with Cassio.

Iago chooses Roderigo as his pawn; he tempts Roderigo by saying that if Othello and Cassio were killed then he could have Desdemona. Iago first goes to Desdemona's father Brabanito and says that Othello and his daughter are having sexual intercourse and are getting married. When Brabanito is finally made aware of the marriage he accuses Othello of using black magic on his daughter. Iago tells Roderigo that he must fight with Cassio and when Cassio is demoted then Iago would take over the position, many believed that when Iago was placed in the position he would stop his plan of disinformation but it appears that it was just a way to gain the trust of Othello. Iago tells Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are covertly having an affair. This may prove Iago's hatred of women, which has long been speculated by critics as another reason for his plan. After Iago and Roderigo decide to kill Cassio they inform Othello that he should kill Desdemona, after Roderigo wounds Cassio Iago stabs Roderigo in the back (literally) effectively killing him. This shows that Iago never really wanted Roderigo to live though the night adding to the fact that Iago should never really be trusted.

Character profile: Othello

Othello is the army general stationed in Cyprus. He is a well-spoken young man who has just wed the beautiful Desdemona although without the consent of her father Brabantio. Othello has just promoted Cassio as his lieutenant instead of Iago and this makes Othello a target for Iago's rage. The problem with Othello is that he is too trusting and even though he believed at the beginning that Desdemona could never be unfaithful to him and especially with Cassio but he does have the nagging feeling that perhaps Iago could be telling the truth. To verify these feelings he asks Iago to give him proof of Desdemona's infidelity "Villain, be sure to prove my love a whore; be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof" (Act 3-Scene 3). It is during these middle scenes that the great general begins to lose the ability to speak so eloquently. Desdemona believes that Othello is going insane because he now has a hatred for Cassio; Iago notices these changes and is aware that his plan is working. Although Othello agrees to kill Desdemona he does so after great debate with himself saying that he still has love for her "hang her, I do but say she is: so delicate without her needle, an admirable musician (Act 4 Scene 1)

This shows that he would have difficulty in killing her but Iago tells him to forget it because she cheated on him. Unfortunately Othello does not realize everything until it is too late.

Character profile: Cassio

Cassio is the loyal, recently promoted deputy to Othello and is also a good friend to Desdemona. When Cassio and Roderigo get into a bar fight Cassio is demoted and Iago takes up his place. Although when Cassio mentions his recent demotion to Iago, Iago continues with his deception "Iago: Are you hurt lieutenant? Cassio: O, I have lost my reputation" (Act 2 Scene 3). Desdemona's handkerchief is stolen from her room by Emilia and then given to Iago who places it in Cassio's bedchamber who, unaware of its origin give it to his whore Bianca but she rejects it. When Othello finally believes Iago he invites Cassio around to talk about Bianca while he tells Othello that they will be talking about Desdemona. When Cassio produces the handkerchief claiming that he does not know where it came from Othello recognizes it as that he gave to Desdemona. In the rather climatic ending of murder and betrayal we are told that Cassio has now become commander of Cyprus and Iago will be tried in Verona.

Character profile: Emilia

Many critics wonder if Emilia is really such a good friend to Desdemona, as she appears to be. She gives Desdemona's handkerchief to Iago, which was the final straw that pushed Othello over the edge and made him kill his wife. Although when she does realize Iago's plan she begins to speak the truth saying that Iago was behind it all, and saying that she has been moronic in her ways O gull, O dolt, As ignorant as dir! (Act 5 Scene 2) this causes Iago to stab her in order to silence her. She also has a hatred of men (although she happens to married to one) and she states that women are mere sex objects for their husbands.

The response of the audience in Othello

*Othello is the most painful tragedy to watch.

*The audience is drawn to Iago's plan due to the fact that he has more soliloquies that Othello. These soliloquies have more power due to the content where he reveals his plan to the audience and so the audience is made to feel as if they are accomplices.