Othello’s Tragic Flaw Essay
Othello’s Tragic Flaw For every Shakespearean tragedy there is a grossly unfortunate sequence of events that eventually leads to a bloodbath. The reason for this bloodbath is the tragic flaw. The tragic flaw is the small character defect in the protagonist that, in most circumstances, wouldn’t have been a big problem if not for said events. People frequently mistake Othello’s tragic flaw. They jump to the seemingly obvious choice of jealousy or naivety. The actually tragic flaw will be revealed in this essay.
One of the first things that people say, and I myself said, when they are asked about Othello’s tragic flaw is something regarding how much he trusted Iago. It is an understandable thought at first because without that level of trust, Iago’s plot would not have likely succeeded. The reasons why this argument is wrong are simple though. The first reason is that everyone, not just Othello, trusted Iago. People literally called him, “Honest Iago. ” This widespread level of trust proves that Othello was not naive for trusting Iago.
Moreover, Othello and Iago had been to war together. This would have required them to frequently trust one another with their lives and, in almost any other situation, would have built a massive bond of trust. Most people would have needed to be maligned more grievously than not getting a promotion to sever themselves from such a deep bond. The rational person, feeling betrayed, would normally voice his objection to his treatment and then have a chance to hear the reasoning. If he were satisfied with the explanation he would stay and forget about the problem.
If he weren’t satisfied he would leave. Iago had various reasons why he felt he deserved the promotion over Cassio but never voiced his concerns. In Iago’s troubled mind, the fair retaliation would be to ruin Othello’s life. Such reasoning should leave the reader without a doubt that Iago is a sociopath. In conclusion, Iago was considered extremely trustworthy to all and it is rational to believe that his mental illness is the only reason he wasn’t even more loyal to Othello. The next thing that people erroneously think about Othello is that his jealousy is the tragic flaw.
Certainly the imagery of the “Green-eyed monster” is very powerful and eerie, but the argument doesn’t make sense. There is some lapse in logic to think that Othello is a jealous man. If the person you trust most lies to you and fabricates significant amounts of evidence, even if it is circumstantial, you are going to at least take into consideration. If he continues to feed you lies and produces ocular evidence then you are probably going to believe him. It is understandable for someone under such circumstances to even start imagining things that haven’t happened.
That doesn’t earn you the label of jealous but rather as the victim; a jealous man would see the fake evidence and be distrusting on his own. The fact is that however unlikely this situation may be, it could happen to anyone. After those two most commonly considered tragic flaws of Othello you may meet an impasse. The key to moving forward is juxtaposition. Comparing other Shakespearean tragic heroes such as Hamlet or Macbeth to Othello. One easily arguable tragic flaw for Macbeth is that he was too easy to manipulate.
Both his wife and the witches could bend him to do evil. The difference with Othello is that he was never being tempted to do what he considered to be evil but rather what he considered just. So they may be similar insofar as they were both guided by others, but we’ve excused Othello for falsely trusting Iago and there is no excuse for trusting witches. Comparing Othello to Hamlet at first seems like a complete waste of time. They certainly share very few similar characteristics. Physically, they are polar opposites.
Hamlet is a well-educated and highly intellectual prince and Othello has spent his entire life on the battlefield. So mentally they are practically opposites too. The merit of this juxtaposition is in analyzing the situations they were both in. Hamlet was beckoned by the Ghost of his father to avenge him and Othello was simply given information on which he acted. Simply put, Hamlet was told exactly what to do and Othello was left to do exactly what Iago knew he would do. They are still sounding like opposites but here is where it gets interesting.
Hamlet’s tragic flaw was that he simply thought too much. Hamlet had a perfect chance to kill Claudius and thereby avenge his father but he decided it wasn’t the right time because Claudius was praying. Hamlet’s intellectual nature caused him to miss the best opportunity. Hamlet, along with many others, would have lived had he acted quickly and decisively instead of over-thinking. The opposite statement, as it applies to Othello’s situation makes a lot of sense. It would say, “Othello, along with many others, would have lived had he not acted quickly and decisively instead of under-thinking. This makes sense for a number of reasons mainly that everything spiraled out of control so quickly. It tends to feel like it is over an extended period of time while you read it when the entire timeline is only a few days. Another reason the statement makes sense is that if Othello had stepped back and simply examined things a little more carefully he might have figured the trap out. So what is Othello’s tragic flaw? Well we have identified that Hamlet’s intellectual nature caused him to overthink and procrastinate killing Claudius and therefore is his tragic flaw.
Therefore Othello’s tragic flaw must lie in his tendency to act quickly and decisively following his gut. Ultimately, we cannot blame Othello for this and should really have some sympathy for him. It’s not as if he couldn’t control his sexual appetite or slow his ambition. He was neither cruel nor cowardly. Othello was just a good man ensnared in a vicious trap. His gut instinct and decisiveness served him well on the battlefield. Which, in turn, produced the stories that he would use to woo Desdemona and with terrible irony was that which killed her as well.