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Jenna Christiano

4 May 2010 LIT 4930 Major Paper


Othello, the Tragedy of a Man
Othello stands to this day as one of the four pillars of Shakespeare's great tragedies.
Unlike the other supreme three (Macbeth, King Lear, and Hamlet), Othello focuses
on the private lives of specific characters; the role they play in each others lives
and, in turn, the destruction they cause, and exposes their passions and insecurities
which result in the tragic end of individuals, not state or kingdom as in
Shakespeare's other tragedies. The scope of this paper is essential in understanding
what Shakespeare was actually attempting to convey in writing the fall of a man.
What Shakespeare did was to take a man who was the epitome of the other and
display how though the othering was not his fault, was the cause of his downfall.
The fourth century Greek philosopher Aristotle defines tragedy in his
Poetics, and laid forth a blueprint for what he saw to work as the perfect, successful
tragedy. What is to follow is an examination of how Shakespeare meddled with the
form tragedy in composing Othello, as opposed to the traditional form that Aristotle
defined in his Poetics, and how it adds to the story of
Othello, allowing it in the category of classic tragedy. The first and foremost
important piece of the puzzle would be to understand what the great philosopher
defines as a tragedy, and more importantly, a tragic hero. In focusing on character,
Shakespeare exposes an unconscious, yet powerful, human flaw which is seen, as in
Othello, to have the power to ruin an marriage, to be haunting enough to kill and
likewise how the structure of Othello displays not only the fall of a man, but of a
man uncharacteristic of nobility in the first place.