Othello: An Aristotelian Tragedy and a Tragic Hero Gil Vargas Liberty University 9 November 2011 Outline Thesis Statement: Othello as an Aristotelian Tragedy provides an interesting insight of human reaction to love, jealousy and hatred and asserts that man holds the power of destroying not only himself bit also people around him when driven by passion; love, lust, anger or hatred…
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III. Characteristics of a tragic hero A. Hamartia and arete B. Similarities between a tragic hero and Othello C. It provides an insight in the mind sets of Shakespeare who was inspired by Aristotle’s poetics to write his tragedies. Abstract Shakespeare’s play “Othello” is inspired by Aristotle’s concept of Tragedy and Tragic Hero because the former incorporates all the characteristics of a tragedy explained by Aristotle. Such a comparison between Shakespeare’s Othello and Aristotle’s theory provides the readers with an interesting experience of getting to know the characters of the play more closely. The various elements incorporated by Shakespeare include, the role of a tragic hero, hamartia and arete. Introduction Aristotle’s definition of a Tragedy has acted as the foundation for the creation of Tragic plays in Classical Literature. Consequently in “Othello” which is a tragic love story it is observed that Shakespeare incorporates almost all the elements of tragedy identified by Aristotle. Hence, “Othello’s” analysis as an Aristotelian Tragedy provides an interesting insight of human reaction to love, jealousy and hatred and asserts that man holds the power of destroying not only himself bit also people around him when driven by passion; love, lust, anger or hatred. Definition of a Tragedy In order to explain the structure of drama Aristotle introduced the first literary theory in the form of “Aristotle’s Poetics” explaining his understanding of tragedy and comedy and their various elements. Gould explains that in poetics, “he (Aristotle) analyzes the structure of tragedy, the nature of the tragic hero, and finally the paradox of tragedy itself” (2003, p.56). So according to Aristotle a tragedy is, “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions (1961, p.16). Othello as an Aristotelian Tragedy In section 2 of “Poetics” it is mentioned that, “Every tragedy falls into two parts, the complication and the unraveling or the denouement. Incidents extraneous to the action are frequently combined with a portion of the action proper, to form the complication; the rest is the unraveling” (1961, p.58). These notions of ‘complication and unraveling’ are important in the analysis of “Othello” because this also reiterates the authenticity of this play being an Aristotelian Tragedy. Iago’s character acts as a catalyst which results in the complications or misunderstandings that arise in Othello’s and Desdemona’s married life as it mentioned in Act 3 Scene 3, “O beware, my lord, of Jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger; But O, what damned minutes tells he o'er Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strongly loves!” (1996, p.836). These lines can be interpreted as the beginning of the ‘complications’ in Othello’s married life because from here onwards Iago constantly plays on Othello’s fears and stoke flames of jealousy in him. While the point of
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