Othello as a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare’s Play


A tragic hero in a play is a character who plays a major role in the play but later ends up in problems unexpectedly. A tragic hero plays a crucial role in a play by taking a central role in every scene of a play. As a result of this, the hero is liked by the audience for making the play interesting. However, despite playing a major role, the hero’s life ends as a result of a tragedy. This paper will discuss how Othello is developed as a hero throughout the play “Othello” by William Shakespeare. The play is about a black army general who found himself marrying the daughter of a senator. However, one of his assistants is also in love with the same daughter and he reported the case to the senator. One of the army officers spread false information about the unfaithfulness of the senator’s daughter, leading to the main character killing the wife and also himself.


Shakespeare portrayed Othello as a tragic hero in his play “Othello” by introducing the character Othello as a hero throughout the play through his life ends in a tragic murder. Othello was a Venetian army general and was in charge of a big number of soldiers. Iago was Othello’s servant and was upset by Othello promoting Cassio to the position of lieutenant. Iago decided to become loyal to Othello as long as that loyalty would work for his advantage. Iago, therefore, decided to inform Roderigo of the planned marriage between Othello and Desmedona. Roderigo was a rich man who was in love with Desmedona and had even requested her father to marry him. Othello’s heroic role started when he was accused of sleeping with Desdemona, Barbantio’s daughter. Barbano was the senator of Venetian; he was, therefore, a very powerful leader. Shakespeare portrayed Othello as a hero by the act of sleeping with the Senator’s daughter despite him being from a different race. Othello could be termed as a hero because even Barbantio himself did not believe what he was told about his daughter.

When Barbantio finally found out the truth about his daughter, he ordered Othello to be arrested immediately. Neill (7) noted that “Barbantio hesitates to believe them, since Roderigo has been an unwelcome suitor to his daughter, but he soon finds she is missing”. Therefore, Barbantio sent Cassio and some other officers to arrest Othello. When Othello was brought to the Duke of Venice, Barbantio accused him that he was guilty and he had annoyed him for using witchcraft to make his daughter fall in love with him. It was clear from the accusation that Barbantio did not expect her daughter to fall in love with a black man. Barbantio, therefore, associated Othello with using witchcraft which is associated with African culture to win his daughter. Shakespeare portrayed Othello as a hero in that, the audience would expect Othello to be punished severely for annoying the senator. However, this did not happen since Barbantio decided to legalize the marriage. Neill (9) stated that “he, however, proves this is not so, and Barbantio reluctantly blesses their marriage”.

Another incidence where Shakespeare portrayed this character as a hero was when Othello was ordered to go for a mission in Cyprus. This was because even after undergoing a trial, Duke suggested Othello go and defend the Turkish fleet when it was realized that it was sailing towards Cyprus. Othello requested Iago to accompany him to Cyprus so that he could take care of Desdemona. Neill (11) stated that “on the other hand, Roderigo continuously lamented to Iago that he had lost his Desdemona since Othello had married her”. Iago comforted Roderigo by telling them that he would still win her back if he used money. It could be remembered that Iago had pledged to be loyal to Othello from the beginning as long as his relationship with him would create an advantage. It was at that point that general Montano brought the issue that their work in Cyprus was done since there were no threats. Iago on the other hand told Roderigo that Desdemona was in love with Cassio and therefore Cassio could be a threat in Roderigo’s struggle to win Desdemona’s love. On that night, Othello and his wife went to sleep while the rest went to take some drinks. Roderigo organized to fight Cassio and which happened. The fight was stopped by Montano and Othello who came to intervene. Othello even went on and sacked Cassio for the act by telling them that he would no longer be his lieutenant. In that scene, Shakespeare portrayed Othello as a hero in that he was the man who married the woman who led men to fight over her.

Iago continued to create more conflicts among the people when he told Cassio to encounter Desdemona and request her to plead with Othello so that he could retain his position in the army. Iago used this opportunity to convince Othello that his wife was not loyal to him since she had a love affair with Cassio. Cassio was seen by Othello and Iago at Desdemona’s house having a dialogue with her and on seeing them, he left. This incident led Othello to start believing what Iago had told him. However, Othello did not believe Iago’s story and therefore he requested some evidence from him. This was noted by Neill (23) “Othello yells at Iago and demands proof of the suspicions which Iago has planted in his head”. Iago Organized with his wife Emilia to steal Othello’s handkerchief from his house. Iago planted the handkerchief in Cassio’s room so that he could annoy Othello more about his wife’s disloyalty. Additionally, Iago told Othello that Cassio’s hand privately confessed to him that Desdemona loved him. He also supported his evidence by telling Othello that there was a time that was using Othello’s handkerchief. This led to Othello naming Iago as his lieutenant. Having gathered enough evidence, Othello went to his house and requested his handkerchief pretending that he had a cold. Desdemona tried to search for it but she could not find it though she said that it was not lost and that it was still in the house. Othello, therefore, believed all that Iago told him and started wishing to have both Desdemona and Cassio dead.

Lodovico came from Cyprus and brought a letter to Othello requiring him to leave Cyprus and go back home and Cassio to remain in Cyprus as the acting general. Iago advised Roderigo to kill Cassio so that Othello would remain in Cyprus and therefore Desdemona would also remain in Cyprus. Roderigo believed that that new plan would work and therefore planned to kill Cassio. He attacked Cassio and cut one of his legs. Everyone heard the screams and came to the rescue. At that point, Iago suggested committing suicide since he realized that all his plans would be discovered. According to Neill, (45) “Iago thinks to himself that both must die, or his plotting will be revealed”. Roderigo and Cassio died and later Emilia emerged and disclosed all the truth about all that had been happening. Othello had already murdered Desdemona, her father also died after hearing the news of her daughter’s death. Othello hated himself and used a sword to kill himself. The play ended with the main character, Othello killing his wife and also himself.


The play started well for Othello by him marrying the daughter of a senator even though he was black while the daughter was from a different race. Throughout the play, Shakespeare used the themes of jealousy and love. This was because; most of the characters in the play were portrayed as jealous. Roderigo felt that Desdemona was his future wife, Othello did not wish to lose Desdemona to other men and Iago was not comfortable since he had not been promoted to the lieutenant rank as Cassio. The theme of love was more manifested in Othello since he always loved his wife despite all that Iago said about her not until the blast minutes when he murdered her. Othello loved his wife since he did not take prompt actions when he was told about her unfaithfulness but instead, he instead requested evidence. It was expected that Othello would have either killed Cassio immediately after he realized that Cassio was interested in his wife. The story ended tragically with the main character committing suicide and also killing his wife due to jealousy.

Work Cited

Neill, Michael. Othello. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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"Othello as a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Play." Premium Papers, 29 Dec. 2021, premium-papers.com/othello-as-a-tragic-hero-in-shakespeares-play/.


Premium Papers. (2021) 'Othello as a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Play'. 29 December.


Premium Papers. 2021. "Othello as a Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Play." December 29, 2021. https://premium-papers.com/othello-as-a-tragic-hero-in-shakespeares-play/.

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