Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Othello, is a strong, powerful, and dignified Moor. He has come to Venice, hired by the State to help the country win their war against the Turks. He spent nine months in Venice, where his leadership and kindness have made him a popular general. Yet, how can such a strong character become so blinded from the truth and can only hear the destructive voice of “honest” Iago? This can be explained by an in-depth analysis of Othello’s many character flaws. These include his trust in people, his little knowledge of women, his strict code of honour, and his wild imagination.
There are qualities about Othello that have a good side and a bad side. One of these would be that Othello has an open and trusting nature. He believes that one is honest and sincere until they have shown evidence otherwise. In the play, Iago’s lies seem so believable that Othello never doubts what he has to say. This open-hearted trust makes Othello an attractive and generous friend; however, it also leaves him susceptible to Iago’s scheming. Iago is incredibly clever and manipulative. He has fooled everyone into thinking that he’s honest.
Another fault in his character can be attributed to the fact that Othello is naive, particularly about women. He remarks on his years served in army camps: ” For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used Their dearest action in the tented field” (1:3:83-86) Having spent most of his life in army camps, Othello knows little of women and love. In the first Act, we learn that while Othello was in Venice, he spent much time in the home of a Venetian Senator, Brabantio.
There, his stories of his travels around the world attracted Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona. This leads to a fairy-tale romance as Othello sweeps her off her feet and elopes with her, despite strong objections from her father. Interestingly, here he admits to being a shy and cautious lover. However, in the third Act, we find that Othello’s inexperience allows Iago to convince him that he doesn’t understand Venetian women, and that they are known for cheating on their husbands.
Once again, these mind-altering words make Othello doubt his wife’s innocence more. Furthermore, as a professional soldier, Othello has gained a strong reputation. The discipline he has learned has earned him the respect of the Venetians, who need his help desperately. The purpose of firing Cassio was to make an example of him to the rest of the soldiers, and Othello refuses to reinstate him as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, it is this strict code of honour, both military and private, that eventually pushes Othello to murder his wife.
Because he thinks that Desdemona has broken her vows, he believes that she must now die. He sees death as an act of justice, not of revenge. It is painful for him to see his own wife die, but he feels that he doesn’t have any other options. He is a soldier; trained to live by the strict rules. From his travels around the world, Othello tells of marvelous and exotic tales about strange people with different customs and unusual appearances. Another possible reason for Othello’s downfall is that he has a powerful, poetic imagination.
The stories told to Desdemona are rich and impressive. As Othello retells the story of his courtship in the Senate office, the Duke is so struck that he understands how his daughter was won by such stories. Yet, this rich imagination has a handicap; it makes Othello vulnerable to Iago’s stories of Desdemona’s infidelities. His imagination runs wild with Iago’s invented details and “proofs”. Othello is like many people in today’s society; it is not uncommon to believe in lies. Because Iago is so brilliant, many people would fall into his trap.
One can not say for certain if his close friend is always speaking the truth. It is sometimes very difficult to differentiate the fact from fiction. They way Othello dealt with his anger and grief was extreme, but given the circumstances and his frame of mind at the time, it is understood why he would commit such a horrendous crime. Knowing that Othello easily trusts in people, he has inexperience with relationships, he believes in a strict code of honour, and he has a wild imagination, it can naturally be concluded that these qualities would ultimately lead to tragedy.