Comparative essay - Othello/Macbeth tragic heroes

2537 Words Jan 7th, 2014 11 Pages
Coursework
Unit 1: ‘Many critics have argued that Othello is not a true Shakespearean tragic hero. Explore the idea that Shakespeare intended to make Othello fit the criteria of his tragic hero with comparison to Macbeth.’
By Marina Georgallides
A tragic hero, determined by Aristotle, must show a nobility and virtue of a certain magnitude however, their path to happiness should be ceased by their destructive vice (Harmartia- the flaw that eventually leads to their downfall). Peripeteia, the point where the character’s fortune changes, must evoke a state of pity and fear amongst the audience, and give above all, a didactic message. The outcome of this characteristic should result in a complex but sole instigation of both the hero’s
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J. A Bryant (1961) argues that, “Macbeth is a wholly negative character who possesses the capacity for good but chooses to commit evil instead”, illustrating that his ulterior motive wasn’t for the good or righteous, as opposed to Othello, but for the selfish rise to power, evidently making him less of a tragic hero; he merely chooses evil because it works to his own advantage rather than making the world into a ‘better’ place. Both a Shakespearean and a modern audience would believe that Macbeth, like the Devil, has willed himself into a desperate position whereby he is captive of nothing except the providence he chose to ignore. In fact, a further aspect of his Hamartia is arguably his supposed lack of masculinity that he is constantly belittled and ridiculed for by Lady Macbeth. The use of a rhetorical question in “Are you a man?” indicates her ability to manipulate him into believing that he is not ‘strong’ enough to murder. This too, plays an important but yet, not as dominant, role in Macbeth’s downfall.
The second element combined to create a tragic hero is Peripeteia where the downfall from a virtuous status to a catastrophic one is evident. Regardless of however many times Othello is referred to as the “Moor” by Iago, a derogatory term used to highlight his race, a Shakespearean audience will still be amazed by his aristocratic virtue as he possesses the verbal eloquence to assert to the signiors in the rule of three adjectives as “potent, grave

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