Analysis of the Tragedy of Othello

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Analysisof the Tragedy of Othello

Analysisof the Tragedy of Othello

Othellois a play that expresses the tragic events surrounding the maincharacter, Othello. Through the play, Shakespeare explores severalthemes and motives that reflect the society. However, the mostdominant aspect is the tragedy that befalls Othello as it extends toother characters he influences throughout the plot. The plot of theplay develops through the antagonism of Othello and Iago, a characterthat takes advantage of the situations to perpetrate his evilmotives. However, Othello maintains the role of a main character inthe development of themes and motives of the play due to hisinvolvement in the events in every scene.

Tragedyhappens when a character in literature undergoes suffering, pains andunfortunate outcomes due to his decisions, his behavior or from theactions of others. In most cases, tragedy describes the fatal eventsbefalling on a character, which has the favor of the reader and theaudience. In the play, Othello faces tragedy through the events thathappen to him, with the ultimate tragedy of his death through suicide(Shakespeare, 1988, V. II. 243, 245). The description of tragedy inthe play can take several perspectives as evaluated by differentauthors and analysts. This paper will focus on three such reviewsthat explore the play at different perspectives.

Accordingto French (1981), the play should be evaluated and analyzed throughthe gender perspectives of the on the play. To understand the plotand the actions of the characters, French (1981) explores genderdifferences, and feminism in the play. French (1981) explains thatthe tragedy that befalls the characters, are designed by the writerto reflect the painful experiences of women and men. French exploredIago’s character towards women, an evil way, that defines thetragic events of the plot. In the first scene, Iago shows his hatredfor women when he describes the marriage of Othello to Desdemona.

French(1981) further compares the hatred that Iago has against women withthe opposite character of Othello. Othello is particularly affectedby the chauvinistic approach Iago has over the opposite gender, eventhose who are close to him. It is tragic that Iago criticizes evenhis own wife and uses animals to describe the imagery of his view onwomen. This is tragic because it would be expected that a man of hisposition would be more respectable. Iago further illustrates thatwomen are nothing more than just housewives, which is a wrongapproach to describe the opposite gender (French, 1981). From theperspective of feminism, it is only fair to term the actions of thecharacter as tragic since it brings painful reflection to the womencharacters affected by Iago’s actions and behavior.

Berry(1981) takes the psychological approach to understand the interactionbetween the characters, as a way of understanding the tragic lay.Berry explores the tragic character of Othello by considering othercharacters that influence his behavior and those that he affects inthe plot. According to Berry (1981), analyzing Othello’s characterby comparing him with others gives a better way of understanding andevaluating the themes and motives of the author. According to Berry(1981), the two antagonists, Iago and Othello symbolize differentthemes due to their differences in personality. While Othellopresents a respected person in the society and the Venice community,Iago presents an evils and a jealous character. His words lead othersto evil and malice, as he has jealous of Othello’s marriage(Shakespeare, 1988, V. II. 243, 245). For instance, Rodrigo feelslike killing Cassio, because of the words spoken to him by Iago.

Theeventualities of tragedies in the play are fueled by the spirits ofrevenge that control Iago to pursue harm towards Othello. Thissymbolically shows how he transfers the issues that befall him toothers. Berry (1981) argues that through his actions, Iago transfersthe tragedies of his life to others such as his main antagonist,Othello. To justify his revenge missions, Iago indicates that he ismotivated by two reasons against Othello. First, he believes thatOthello did not promote him in their associations. Secondly, heaccuses Othello of adultery with his wife. These two reasons directsthe reader to understand that the motives of greed for power andsupremacy is what guides the revenge mission of Iago that lead totragedy.

Ina different, yet significant perspective, Campbell (2011) looks atthe play from the perspective of racism and imperialism. It is commonto mistake the intentions of Shakespeare in the whole play as racisthowever, it is clear that Iago is the only racist in the play.Therefore, the understanding of the play can fail to be a tragedy ofOrientalism. The context that Campbell explores the play exposes thetragic play from an understanding that shows Shakespeare’s views onracism and that he does not display racism against Othello (Campbell,2011). However, tragic events are displayed when Othello clearlyfaces racist challenges from other characters in the play. In theplay, Iago talks in a racial language when he describes Othello asjust a moor and a person who should not be getting respect in thesociety.

Themeaning of the handkerchief is a subjective concept and the eventthat is left to the reader to explore based on the context of thecharacters, as well as the perspective of interpretation. In relationto the play, the handkerchief gets its meaning from the charactersdue to their desire to understand all the aspects of thehandkerchief. Cassio plants the handkerchief t Cassio to signify hisaffair with Desdemona believes that In addition, Bianca perceives thehandkerchief event as a way of showing betrayal of Othello’s wife.However, Othello sees the handkerchief from a cultural perspective ofimportance because it gives him the meaning of a gift to his wife.This symbolically shows his dropping of trust he had placed on hiswife, Desdemona. Therefore, the dropping of the handkerchiefsignifies the end of their relationship.

Inconclusion, the meaning of tragedy in the play takes differentmeanings and motives, depending on the perspectives of the reader. Tounderstand the tragic play, French (1981) takes the perspective ofgender by evaluating the actions of each character based on theirview on feminism. From a psychological perspective, Berry (1981)explores the interaction among the characters of the play as a way ofunderstanding their motives towards the tragedies in the play. In amore significant perspective, Campbell (2011) explores the tragedy ofOrientalism in the play by evaluating racism and imperialism. Thesetwo aspects form some contexts of some characters like Iago. Throughthese perspectives, the understanding of the plot is made better,especially in comprehending the tragedies in the play.


Berry,R. (1981). ShakespeareStructure. London:MacMillan. Retrieved From,&lt 2, 2014

Campbell,C. (2011). Iago`s orientalism: imperial discourse in Othello.International Journal of Arabic-English Studies, (IJAES),12, 9-23. Retrieved From,&lt 2, 2014

French,M. (1981). Shakespeare`sdivision of experience. NewYork: Ballantine. Retrieved From, &lt 2, 2014

Shakespeare,W. (1988). FourTragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.NewYork: BantamBooks