William Shakespeare

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Othello: Genre 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Explanation and Analysis:

Othello is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragedy. The action centres around a noble hero, Othello, brought down by a tragic flaw, in this case jealousy, and ends in mass death. At the beginning of the play, Othello’s honor and honesty are repeatedly emphasized, with him being presented as a well-liked man of good repute. However, Othello soon makes a mistake in trusting Iago’s deceit about the infidelity of his wife, and therein lies his tragic error. Othello’s over-trusting nature, along with his capacity for jealousy, constitute his hamartia, a word derived from Greek which refers to a noble character’s "fatal flaw." Othello’s consequent rashness and violence—which ends in the deaths of Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio, and himself—forms the climax of his tragic downfall.

As well as following the prescribed structure of a tragic narrative, Othello also contains many other key features of the tragedy genre. Its characters are of high status, its plot centers around a struggle between good and evil, and its content deals with high ideals and grand topics such as fate and justice. The play’s ending, in which the noble hero Othello is dead but the villain Iago alive and unremorseful, also shows a lack of poetic justice that is common to the tragedy genre. Likewise, the deaths of the innocents—Desdemona, Emilia and Cassio—embodies the idea of tragic waste.

The intensity of the tragedy of Othello also promotes catharsis, the release and relief from strong or repressed emotions, a key element of classical tragedy. Othello is a play which immerses the audience in its emotional landscape, invoking strong emotions such as sympathy, anger, and sadness that all embody a sense of catharsis.