Critical Study : Othello

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Introduction - Edited by Ryan Chiu

What could possibly bring one of the most powerful, successful men down on his knees? Jealousy? Mistrust? Deceit? ... William Shakespeare's Othello tells a tragic story of how jealousy and mistrust can rob a powerful man of his power. Due to the ever changing context of society throughout history, many more critical interpretations of the play Othello have been formed since the Elizabethan times. Throughout this book, you will find many differing interpretations of Othello. Two interesting interpretations to compare include : the ancient Aristotelian interpretation and the fairly recent feminist interpretation. The Aristotelian interpretation of the play is concerned with whether or not the play is labelled a true "tragedy". Three factors which determine whether or not Othello fits under the criteria for a true, Aristotelian tragedy include : the plot, main characters and the cause of the "tragic" ending. On the other hand, the more recent, feminist view of Othello is concerned with the social status of women at the time, and the way in which women are portrayed in Othello.

Aristotle, a Greek philosopher defined tragedy as " ... the imitation in dramatic form of an action that is serious and complete, with incidents arousing pity and fear wherewith it effects a catharsis of such emotions ..." (Poetics 14). Shakespeare's Othello is indeed a story of tragedy. Iago's evil schemes throughout the play cause much grief and pity on the side of Othello. Iago manipulates Othello's innocence, naivety and trust to cause Othello to become jealous over the thought of his newly wedded wife cheating on him. Othello's fall from grace leads him to eventually murder his own wife, and once Iago's plan has been exposed by Emilia, Iago murders his own wife and Othello commits suicide. It is the deaths...

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