What is a tragic hero?

A tragic hero is the protagonist in the play who usually is faced with some opposing force whether internal or external. In order to be a tragic hero, one has to have the following characteristics: (1) be a nobleman, prince, or person of high estate; (2) have a tragic flaw, and a weakness in judgement; and (3) fall from high to low estate. These can be seen in Shakespeare’s “Othello” which discusses the downfall of a noble man because of his flaws that are not actually defects in itself, but rather the excess of a virtue.

All throughout this paper, I will discuss how Othello was being said as a nobleman and how his attributes became his tragic flaws that caused his downfall. We can say that Othello is a nobleman because of the respect brought forth by the people of Cyprus in the first scene of the second act, when Montano, the Governor of Cyprus, is awaiting the arrival of Othello’s ship, he remarked: For I have served him, and the man commands As to throw out our eyes for brave Othello” In this text, we can see that he is a proven leader of men and known for his military knowledge and skills.

As a matter of fact, his soldiers hold him in awe, and throughout the play he is referred to as a captain whom do his comrades respect. On the other hand, his noble attributes such as self-confidence, generous trust and love became the perfect concoction which eventually lead to his destruction. In other words his positive attributes are responsible for bringing out his negative side, his flaws in character. In the case of his self-confidence, it is clear at first that Othello regarded himself with high esteem.

This is clearly evident when he made a stand before Brabantio, Roderigo, and Iago in act 1, scene2. He said, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them” (I. ii. 60). At this point in time, Othello is not afraid to face Brabantio eventhough he knew that Brabantio is furious with him for allegedly seducing his daughter, Desdemona, through witchcraft. He treated the situation in an even-tempered manner in a way that his self-confidence is not tattered. He did not engage in bloody fight but instead he talked with Brabantio in peaceful means.

This shows his great respect to Brabantio not only because he is his father-in-law but also because Brabantio is a noted senator in Venice. And this also shows his great knowledge in handling difficult situation. But when he discovered about the so-called “unfaithfulness” of Desdemona through Iago his confidence crumbled into pieces. He was enveloped in insecurities and pitying himself like he’s too old for Desdemona and he’s a dark man, not only because he is black, but also because there’s a dark spot in his inner self.

Another positive attribute that brings out his flaws is his generous trust. At first, Othello’s trust is with Desdemona. In fact, he had second thoughts in Iago’s statement. He told Iago that he needs proofs of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness in order for him to believe on what he’s saying. Othello said to Iago, “I do not think but Desdemona’s honest:”(III. iii. 241) This only shows that Othello at this time doesn’t believe Iago. But when Othello’s trusting nature was seemingly transferred to Iago, it became his greatest character fault in the play.

He trusted the wrong person. Instead of giving her trust to Desdemona he gives his full trust to Iago that caused his downfall. This can be seen when Othello and Iago exchanged vows to each other. Othello said to Iago, Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace, Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love, (kneeling) In the due reverence of a sacred vow (III. iii. 478-479) Iago’s villainess is mask in his so called innocence and it effectively blinded Othello.

He replied to him also kneeling, “Witness, you ever-burning lights above, You elements that clip us round about, Witness that here Iago doth give up The execution of his wit, hands, heart, To wronged Othello’s service! Let him command, And to obey shall be in me remorse, This means that there’s no turning back now as they promise to each other vengeance for Desdemona and Cassio. To this very instant, Othello’s mind is totally poisoned by Iago and is under the power of the green eyed monster. The last attribute that lead him to his downfall is his jealousy over Desdemona and Cassio.

It is plain to see that his love for his wife is very strong and he doesn’t lose faith in himself and his love so easily. This love is evident in act 1, scene 3 when Othello described his feeling for Desdemona. He said, “She loved the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them” Othello find Desdemona as someone who loves him not because of what he has but because of what he is. However, later so strong becomes his jealousy that it leads him astray from his previous positive traits.

In one of his speeches, Othello he is angry with his wife and he was heard to remark, “Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her, damn her! ” (III. iii. 491). This statement shows that Iago’s plan is working and Othello’s trust in him will not falter. Othello is clearly emanating pangs of jealousy here, he is hurt and his sufferings are evident in his words. At this time he sees himself as a man deceived, by both Desdemona and Cassio, a man full of jealousy, and a man whose honor is now in question.

Even as the final climatic murder takes place Othello deceives himself by telling himself that it is his duty to kill her, it is not an act of revenge. He said that his mythology of killing Desdemona is that “she must die, else she’ll betray more men” (V. ii. 6). This came out as the final destruction in Othello himself of all the ordering powers of love, of trust, of the bond between human beings. Obviously Othello portrays the characteristics of a tragic hero. He clearly was a man of nobility, of noble character and held in a very high estate.

He was discussed in this play by displaying his positive traits which man continues to search for in order to fulfill a happy life. His traits quickly came crashing down because of character flaws in other people such as deceit, fraud, selfishness, hatred, and a deep desire for revenge. Following Othello’s trust for his good friend Iago, he clearly demonstrated flaws in the forms of judgments, jealousy, loss of self-control and his lack of self confidence in himself. All this eventually lead to the murder of Desdemona whom he continued to love through the end and his own eventual self inflicted death.