Othello a Tragic Hero with Hamartia

Othello, the protagonist of the tragedy, is a tragic figure because he is a man of great character and some virtues but brings about his own doom due to a tragic flaw. He is great as a military leader, as a man of stern morality, and he even has the gentleness of behavior and the powers of speech and understanding.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

But, as a typical tragic character, Othello has the terrible fault (hamartia) in that he is disturbingly gullible, madly jealous, and irrationally quick in his wrong judgments and actions.

As a tragic character, Othello's 'error of judgment' lies in his faulty understanding of innocent people like his wife as guilty, and his pigheaded trust of villains like lago. He is a complex character. His sexual jealousy, which rouses in us terrible hatred, would be something ordinary and tolerable if it was reasonable. But his jealousy is based on his disgustingly gullible nature. Othello is noble, but turns out to be a disgusting rogue, killing his innocent wife and trying to justify his horrible crime at the end. As he transforms, his weaknesses flourish and the nobility of a great soldier vanishes. In short, his fall is tragic and even shocking. The only thing that prevents him from being regarded a bad and hateful man is that he does understand and regret his mistake at the end. His suicide also atones for his sin and arouses in us some sympathy.

In the beginning, we see Othello reasonable, patient and noble. He faces the anger of Brabantio calmly like a general. He ignores when lago provokes him against Desdemona's father. He has been experienced in war and adventure, and that is how he wins a wife. The duke of Venice holds him in trust and respect; he is so much respected that the duke cannot think of saving his land of Cyprus without the help of brave and efficient Othello. Othello is weak in his gullibility, but it is lago's Satanic villainy and also chance that overwhelms his critical mind- that is, whatever critical mind, he is a little too less for Iago and the bad chances. Othello does show a little (and feeble) intellectual resistance against evil. But once the seed of jealousy is sown in him, he proves a fertile ground for it. All his -force is directed to a blinded path of anger. He uses anger to fight ignorance, his teacher being his doom. And when he learns the truth, after killing the evidence, we echo his curse on himself "fool, fool, fool!" The wise soldier is a foolish husband. His attempt to justify becomes more inalterable than savagery. The tragedy has no satisfactory meaning, motive and justice.

The change in Othello from the romantic and successful man into the pathetic schizoid (a psychological patient, who thinks of himself as two or more people) and a miserable and lonely outcast is remarkable. His realization of this is the tragedy of Othello, the Moorish captain of Venice. He has been a soldier of the supreme qualities. He is of a royal blood and aristocracy. The black moor is not a mismatch 'to the fair, innocent Desdemona. But Othello is too fragile for love precisely because he is too strong in what he ought to fight back. Jealously rules him and he spoils everything. He is corruptible. His new life as a husband fires passion without tolerance. And when faith was shaken, he rushes headlong in jealousy without the head to make a second thought. He is quick instead of being fit in judgment. His new life which is utterly dependent on faith collapses because he bores holes where he finds little cracks in the illusion. He is in fact uxorious (loving a wife too much). But his wife is merrily, carelessly, innocently and even foolishly a maiden. He wanted what he couldn't be.

It is shocking how Othello never doubts the doubtful, why he doesn't give a thought to Desdemona's innocence, and Iago's pretensions. He is imaginative when he should be keenly searching the truth. He sees vulgar visions of his wife in bed with Cassio instead of opening his real eyes. It is too late when he realizes what he has done. His "honest" Iago has made him blind and he knows he is now, a damned fool remembering "he that was Othello". The awakened, broken-hearted Othello rouses more anger than pity and fear at the end.