Who are the true heroes in William Shakespeare’s tragic drama Othello? What is their perspective on making deep sacrifice for what they believe in? Let’s find the heroes and analyze their perspective on suffering voluntarily.
Helen Gardner in “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune” considers Iago’s wife Emilia to be a true hero of the play because of her fearless outlook on death itself:
Emilia’s silence while her mistress lived is fully explicable in terms of her character. She shares with her husband the generalizing trick and is well used to domestic scenes. The jealous, she knows,
are not ever jealous for the cause
But jealous for they are jealous.
If it was not the handkerchief it would be something else. Why disobey her husband and risk his fury? It would not do any good. This is what men are like. But Desdemona dead sweeps away all such generalities and all caution. At this sight, Emilia though ‘the world is a huge thing’ finds that there is a thing she will not do for it. By her heroic disregard for death she gives the only ‘proof’ there can be of Desdemona’s innocence: the testimony of faith. (145)
At the outset of the play Iago persuades the rejected suitor of Desdemona, Roderigo, to accompany him to the home of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, in the middle of the night. Once there the two awaken the senator with loud shouts about his daughter’s elopement with Othello. In response to the noise and Iago’s vulgar descriptions of Desdemona’s involvement with the general, Brabantio arises from bed and, with Roderigo’s help, gathers a search party to go and find Desdemona. Once that Brabantio has located Othello, the general stands wit…
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…lling her. She dies an unsung heroine of the play, giving her life for what she believes in, namely the innocence of her lady and the guilt of her husband. The abrupt change in her character toward the end of the play is a pleasant surprise.
Despondent Othello, grief-stricken by remorse for the tragic mistake he has made, acts heroically, following the example of Emilia. He stabs himself and dies on the bed next to the one he has wronged.
Gardner, Helen. “Othello: A Tragedy of Beauty and Fortune.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from “The Noble Moor.” British Academy Lectures, no. 9, 1955.
Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. http://www.eiu.edu/~multilit/studyabroad/othello/othello_all.html No line nos.
Othello: the Abnormalities in the Play
Othello: the Abnormalities in the Play
William Shakespeare’s tragic drama Othello boasts quite a little list of abnormalities in both occurrences and personal behavior.
In the volume Shakespeare and Tragedy John Bayley explains how the abnormality of the protagonist’s behavior brings on rejection by the critics:
In our own time more genteel, but also more intellectualized versions of Rymer’s disfavour have been voiced by T.S. Eliot and F.R. Leavis, who both consider and reject the personality that Othello presents to the outside world, pointing out that he is not so much deceived as a self-deceiver, a man presented by Shakespeare as constitutionally incapable of seeing the truth about himself. So the detached, ironic view of the creator contrasts with the tragical and romantic view taken of himself by the created being. (201)
But Othello is defended by other critics. In her book, Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies, Maynard Mack defends the Moor as one who is not necessarily the victim of a psychological deficiency, as some critics maintain:
What should be noticed in particular is that, essentially, Shakespeare invented Iago; set him down in his dramatis personae with the single epithet “a villain”; and devoted most of the play’s lines and scenes to showing in detail the cunning, malignancy, and cruelty of his nature, including the cowardice of his murder of his wife. It seems to me therefore impossible to believe, as some recent critics would have us do, that the root causes of Othello’s ruin are to be sought in some profound moral or psychological deficiency peculiar to him. (137)
A more obvious example of the irregular appears in the conduct of Iago. The abnormal behavior of the ancient is partly rooted in his misogynism. In “Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello” Valerie Wayne implicates Iago in sexism. He is one who is almost incapable of any other perspective on women than a sexist one:
Iago’s worry that he cannot do what Desdemona asks implies that his dispraise of women was candid and easily produced, while the praise requires labour and inspiration from a source beyond himself. His insufficiency is more surprising because elsewhere in the play Iago appears as a master rhetorician, but as Bloch explains, ‘the misogynistic writer uses rhetoric as a means of renouncing it, and, by extension, woman.’ (163)
And how about epilepsy?