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For many centuries people have found theater to be an excellent form of entertainment. The public’s appreciation for such entertainment is based upon different theatrical themes. Whether it is a lighthearted comedy, that is most certain to lift anyone’s spirits, a passionate romance, that stirs our innermost quixotic emotions, or a dire tragedy, that finds no rhyme or reason in our so-called “fair” concept of life. These types of plays appeal to the different aspects of humanity, and that is why the public has and will continue to regard theater as quality entertainment.
One of the most renowned composers of such dramas was the late William Shakespeare (1564-1616). In the book Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama Editor X. J. Kennedy refers to Shakespeare as “the supreme writer of English” (1009). Shakespeare possessed the rare ability to write comedies, love stories, as well as tragedies, all of which are equal in refinement. British novelists J.I.M. Stewart stated that, “Shakespeare’s instincts was to make of his plays the mirror of life, and broadly speaking, he sets about this by the methods of the naturalistic writer” (502). His work has withstood the test of time and linguistic barriers. For centuries audiences have enjoyed his work and have been able to derive from its interpretations in which they can associate. His keen ability to touch all aspects of humanity is that he has kept his works alive throughout the centuries. It is said that when Shakespeare wrote Othello, about 1604, he was at the height of his power. Othello was written in the classic tragic form:
A tragedy, is as imitation of an action that is serious, complete in itself,
And of a certain magnitude; in a language embellished with each kind of
Artistry… cast in the form of drama, not narrative, accomplishing through
Incidents that arouse pity and fear purgation of these emotions
(Aristotle quoted, in Kennedy )
A summary of Aristotle’s view found in Perrine’s Literature continues with, “The plot involves a change in the protagonist’s fortune, in which he usually, but not always, falls from happiness to misery” (Aristotle qtd. In Arp. ). THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE. The tragic hero in this tragedy is the character Othello, Othello is the noble stature; “All men humor his integrity, his skill in war, his ability in governing men, his self-governance, his temperate nature, a ruler of men who rules himself” (Brooke). Othello’s nobility combined with his fatal flaw of jealousy is what makes him a true Shakespearean tragic hero.
A classic Shakespearean tragedy contains noble characters; the main character is held in high respect by all others, and is often viewed as being godlike. The opening scenes are designed to introduce the audience to what has been going on in the lives of the characters. Their purpose is to provide background information that the audience needs in order to understand the events that follow. The plot continues to thicken throughout the play, as one event dramatically offsets the next. A classic tragedy also contains a subplot that is usually carried out by a minor character. The subplot occurs simultaneously within the main plot, and often plays a role in the final outcome of the main plot. Next a tragedy must have an exciting force, which is the basis of all the action that will take place. In many tragedies a villain who seeks revenge for, what he believes to be, and unjust act done unto him usually causes the exciting force. The exciting force stirs the emotions of a central character; his thoughts have been negatively influenced by the exciting force, and he begins the succumb to his weaknesses. The story then begins to taper off, the falling action, into the resolution. Near the end of the story the audience experiences a moment of final suspense, and then finally a catastrophe.
Every story has a hero of some sort. In Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO, THE MOOR OF VENICE the audience looks to character Othello as the tragic hero. One may ask why Othello is considered to be a tragic hero. To answer that, one must first have an understanding of what characteristics must be present in order for a character to be deemed a tragic hero.
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