This sample essay on Shakespeares Othello offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion are provided below.
Contrary to the mainstream belief of Othello being the tragic hero, I think Iago is the real hero in Shakespeare’s Othello the moor of Venice. A traditional hero defined as a “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. ” This definition however does not apply to Iago, who is a far more complex hero. He is more similar to the ‘Byronic’ hero which is a sub type of anti hero. A Byronic hero is: “A character of larger-than-life flaws, he generally has very few (if any) redeeming qualities beyond panache and seldom performs any of the heroic actions that are usually required of an Anti Hero.
In some cases, the “hero” part of the name seems to be there only because he tends to be a primary protagonist and thus is a Designated Hero. “1 The word ‘panache’ used here means “a dashing manner; style; swagger “. This certainly applies to Iago whose attitude and charisma is a big part of his character. Iago is not the type of hero described in the ancient philosopher Aristotle’ works. He is more like a hero the audience can relate to, and the focus of the story. After all Iago has 1097 lines whereas Othello only has 274. A lack of lines and a focus as a main character is not the only thing that Othello lacks.
Why Should Iago Go Free
In a historical context, an Elizabethan era audience would be more sympathetic and supportive of Iago than Othello. This doesn’t mean that the audience was racist. It is simply the fact that Iago is a character the audience could relate to whereas Othello represents the unknown. The combination of his race and his high rank alienates the audience and they would be more likely to support Iago’s efforts. Othello therefore would be unable to achieve one of the main goals of a tragedy: invoking”fear, pity, sympathy and empathy”2 if the audience where with Iago. Another criterion of being a tragic hero is high birth or high status.
Othello may hold a high rank in the army, but whether this high status carries any weight in Venetian society is another matter. It could be argued that Othello is merely a military asset of the Venetian government. He is competent at being a soldier but his race is what sets him apart from other generals and noblemen. No matter how civilized and well spoken he is he is still seen as a barbarian. This is demonstrated in the opening scene where we only hear of Othello in negative and derogatory terms before his first appearance and before his name is even mentioned
As I mentioned earlier the whole purpose of a tragedy, according to Aristotle, is to “provoke great empathy and sympathy from the viewer and give a sense of loss and gain in self-worth, analysis and being. ” 2 This is mainly shown through the downfall of the main character from a high position leading to the eventual death. But if you take away the audiences support (feelings of sympathy and empathy etc) and the downfall from a ‘high position in society’, then Othello will just be a barely civilized barbarian, who murders his wife in a savage bout jealousy at the slightest rumours.
And it would match the stereotypes about black people being hot-headed and rash. Another thing that sets Iago apart fro Othello is his use of language. Although Othello is very eloquent and poetic in his use of language at the start of the play, it shows a pattern of steady deterioration. Othello’s language becomes more barbaric. “O, blood, blood, blood! ” (III. iii. 452) In contrast, Iago’s use of language is his main tool of manipulation.
In Act I scene I he uses vulgar bestial imagery to provoke a reaction from Brabantio: “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe” (I. i. 8-89) Moments later, he yells to Brabantio: “you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you’ll have your nephews neigh to you; you’ll have coursers for cousins and gennets for germans” (I. i. 111-114) Basically he says if Brabantio doesn do something, his whole family will be nothing but horses. This animal imagery that Iago uses is one of the major devices he uses to control his victims, as it helps him call out their rasher, more impulsive and more violent sides. The example above was meant to rush Brabantio into action, to create a sense of urgency, as he uses a repetition of the word “now”
When Othello demands some proof of Desdemona’s adultery, Iago tells him that he will never be able to catch Desdemona and Cassio in bed together, while at the same time describing their coupling “It is impossible you should see this, / Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, / As salt as wolves in pride], and fools as gross / As ignorance made drunk” (III. iii. 402-405) In act 4 scene 1,Iago works Othello into such a state of jealousy that Othello falls into an epileptic fit. When he wakes up, Iago asks, “How is it, general? Have you not hurt your head? ” (IV. i. 59). Othello answers, “Dost thou mock me? (IV. i. 60), because he thinks that Iago might mean that cuckold’s horns have “hurt” his head.
A cuckold was a man whose wife was having a sexual affair with another man; folklore said that cuckolds grew horns on their heads. This silly myth portrays such men as dumb animals deserving of scornful laughter. Iago denies that he was mocking Othello, and urges him to “bear your fortune like a man! ” (IV. i. 61). Iago’s point is that Desdemona’s unfaithfulness is just a matter of “fortune,” bad luck, and that it’s nothing to swoon over.
Othello replies that “A horned man’s a monster and a beast” (IV. i. 2), which probably describes how he is feeling–strange, non-human. Iago replies that Othello has plenty of company because every city is full of cuckolds. Othello then asks if Iago has heard Cassio confess that he had sex with Desdemona. Rather than give a direct answer to Othello’s question, Iago keeps talking about the difference between a beast and a man. He says, “Good sir, be a man; / Think every bearded fellow that’s but yoked / May draw with you” (IV. i. 65-67). “Think,” like “be,” is a command; Iago is again telling Othello that there are many other men who are cuckolds, and that he should take it like a man.
At the same time, his metaphor suggests that Othello is a beast after all. Oxen are yoked so that they can pull (“draw”) a plow, and Iago uses the oxen’s yoke as a metaphor for marriage. In short, any married is likely to be a beastly cuckold. At the end of the same scene, after Othello thinks he has overheard Desdemona confess her love for Cassio, Othello exits with the exclamation, “Goats and monkeys! ” (IV. i. 263), which is an echo of Iago’s earlier statement to Othello . Thus we see how Iago’s beastly imagery has taken root in Othello’s mind.