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Othello - Analyzing Drama

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Othello

Analyzing Drama

According to Aristotle's definition a tragedy should include an anagnorisis, a moment when the unthinkable is recognized. Although that moment can be identified in "Othello", it occurs to a somewhat unsatisfactory degree. It happens when the title character, who has been completely and most successfully manipulated by Iago, realizes that Emilia is telling the truth and that the wife he has just murdered was truly innocent of adultery. The lines spoken by Othello upon this realization are; "Are there no stones in heaven But what serves for the thunder? -Precious villain!"(5.2.242-243). Considering that the rest of the play is fraught with passionate emotion Othello's initial response to this revelation feels a bit unsatisfying. Indeed this should be a bigger moment. Poor innocent Desdemona has been murdered at the hands of her husband because he believed her to be unfaithful. The moment when Othello realizes that his gullibility and rash actions have resulted in his murdering his innocent wife seems to call for a bigger event. It is perhaps that Shakespeare allows the realization to develop over time that may cause this initial lukewarm reaction. It is as Othello looks upon the body of Desdemona he says "Blow me about in winds! Roast me in sulfur! Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire" (5.2.288-289). The audience understands that Othello is beginning to grasp the full weight of his actions and in making this realization is beginning to formulate the plan for his own punishment. The punishment that he believes fits the crime is one of death. As further evidence of Othello's gradual understanding of his manipulation he responds "O fool, fool, fool" (5.2.319). His comprehension becomes complete and his decision to end his life made absolute. Perhaps anagnorisis need not be one moment, but a series of moments over which the protagonist learns of and then understands the full weight of his tragic situation.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Othello, The Moor of Venice. Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. X. J Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 5th Compact ed. New York: Longman, 2007. 938-1038.

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