Every tragic hero has a promising outlook before some fatal flaw destructs their future. Othello is introduced as a genuine character who is determined to prove his worth as a husband and noble soldier. As the general of Venice, he starts out in the play as honorable. He received the position of general by his outstanding excellence in the field of war. His courage, intelligence, and skill of command earned him the respect of his troops as well as his wife, Desdemona’s, love. Unfortunately, his position is questionable as he is easily misled and manipulated, making the play end in tragedy.
Othello has three main flaws that lead up to his downfall. His flaws are allowing himself to fall for Iago’s malicious plot, his raging jealousy, and his mistrust in his wife, Desdemona. The villain Iago, who appears to be an honest and trustworthy friend, manipulates Othello into believing that his wife is guilty of infidelity. He does this because Othello appointed Cassio, who is of military knowledge, to be his lieutenant over Iago. Iago feels that he was more deserving of a promotion over Cassio. Having done so, Iago comes up with what he believes is a deserving revenge plan against Othello.
Since he feels that Othello committed injustice against him, he plans to destruct Othello’s marriage by using Cassio as the key to his villainous scheme. Iago’s plan of action involves the beloved handkerchief, which Othello presented to Desdemona as one of his first gifts of sentimental value. This is a key feature in Othello’s changing perceptions of Desdemona. With this handkerchief, Iago sets up Cassio. He leads Othello to suspect that his wife is having an affair by creating a lie on Desdemona and Cassio.
He tells Othello that he saw Cassio wiping his beard with the exact same handkerchief that was given to Desdemona. Iago: Nay, but be wise. Yet we see nothing done; She may be honest yet. Tell me but this: Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief Spotted with strawberries in your wife’s hand? Othello: I gave her such a one. ‘Twas my first gift. Iago: I know not that; but such a handkerchief- I am sure it was your wife’s- did I today See Cassio wipe his beard with. (3. 3. 448-453) Othello then lets his mind be poisoned by Iago and the false accusation of his wife’s infidelity.
In Readings On Othello, it states, “his whole nature was indisposed to jealousy, and yet was such that he was unusually open to deception, and if once wrought to passion, likely to act with little reflection, with no delay, and in the most decisive manner conceivable. ” Pg 88 Othello fails to recognize Iago’s malicious plot against him and Desdemona. Othello’s beliefs of Desdemona’s infidelity lead him into a rage of jealously resulting in Desdemona’s death. Othello turned on Desdemona only after he let Iago’s foolish lies be heard. His actions were solely led by outside influences.
Iago drives Othello to jealousy and directs him to believe that Desdemona loves another man. In Readings on Othello, “he put entire confidence in the honesty of Iago, who had not only been his companion in arms, but, as he believed, had just proved his faithfulness in the matter of the marriage”(Nardo 91). He was fooled by his opinion of Iago and everyone else who knew him. Othello already believed that his wife’s love for him was too good to be true, causing even more doubt. He is completely preoccupied with the mission of avenging himself on Desdemona and Cassio for an adulterous affair of which they were entirely innocent of.
The proximate cause of Othello’s change of heart is the poisonous deceits that Iago pours into his ear. Iago hints that Othello is being cuckolded, arising his jealousy towards Cassio and Desdemona even more. He then attempts to convince Othello to not become jealous and to stay calm. Iago: O, beware, my lord, of jealousy. It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger; But O, what damned minutes tells he o’er Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet fondly loves! 3. 3. 179-183) As Iago tells this to Othello, he is really implying the opposite. He is telling Othello lies to suggest Desdemona is in fact guilty of infidelity, therefore manipulating Othello. The “green-eyed monster” is used as a metaphor to represent the feeling of jealousy Othello is keeping inside. By this time, Othello strongly believes Iago and creates a rough tone towards Desdemona when he speaks to her. In the beginning, Othello loved Desdemona with all his heart and would not let anyone take this love away from him.
In Othello, A Critical Study, the author states, “we discover all the beauty and dignity of conjugal faith, and perceive a strong mutual capacity for making of wedded life a helpful and a passionate moral harmony”(Turnbull 346). Othello’s first gift ever to Desdemona was a handkerchief of sentimental value that once had belonged to his mother. It had symbolized the love that he had for her and their marriage. “Desdemona is to him the emblem and the hope of eternity”(Turnbull 347). At first, Othello confidently said that Desdemona was faithful to him and that he would not doubt her without having any proof.
It was then that Iago continued to feed lies of Desdemona’s fidelity into Othello’s head until it resulted in Othello’s destruction. As Iago continued to inform Othello of Desdemona and Cassio’s supposed meetings, Othello changed immensely in his treatment towards Desdemona. He changed to such an extent that he could no longer live with a woman of unmoral behaviors. His mind had been clouded by bad judgment due to Iago’s shady plan. Once Othello began to believe Iago’s stories, he would not let himself believe that Desdemona was in fact pure and virtuous.
He becomes distrusting of Desdemona and treats her poorly. Othello’s rage of jealously ended by the murder of his once beloved wife. As a result, Iago succeeded in the destruction of Othello and Desdemona’s marriage. In conclusion, Othello saw his act of murder as an expression of justice, that by which he had balanced out the punishment of his wife’s wrong doings. By killing Desdemona, he has destroyed the best in himself. Othello judged himself and performed the execution to die with his love. His high ranking in military came with a certain amount of pride.
An affair is humiliating to any man, but especially to a veteran war hero. The belief of his wife’s infidelity left him feeling that he had no other choice but to protect his dignity and reputation by a violent execution. In Readings on Othello, “Othello’s nature is all of one piece. His trust, where he trusts, is absolute. Hesitation is almost impossible to him. He is extremely self-reliant, and decides and acts instantaneously”(Nardo 91). The tragic hero, full of promise, certainly feel victim to his own failings and uncertainties in his own inevitable destruction.
The elements of Othello’s character allow Iago to successfully manipulate him into doing the most appalling act imaginable. Othello is a tragic hero whose flaws led to his ultimate downfall.
Works Cited Nardo, Don. Readings on Othello. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 88-91. Print. Shakespeare, William. Othello, The Moor of Venice. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2012. 816-826. Print. Turnbull, William Robertson. Othello, A Critical Study. William Blackwood and Sons, 1892. 346-47. Print.