Othello’s‌ ‌Genre:‌ ‌Shakespearean‌ ‌Tragedy


The classical tragedies depict the fall of the hero, who struggles with the circumstances of fate and then has a noble defeat. Such stories evoke pity in the audience since the times of ancient Athens. Shakespeare’s tragedies are slightly different from the classic form. Our writers have explored this topic concerning Othello.

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🧩 Elements of Shakespearean Tragedy

Shakespeare’s tragedy has one main distinction – the main character has an issue that leads to his downfall. The “tragic flaw” also often leads to the death of other significant characters. Generally, all of Shakespeare’s works include one more of the following elements of tragedy:

  • the contrast between good and evil;
  • a tragic hero;
  • internal and external struggles;
  • greed and/or revenge;
  • mysticism/supernatural elements;
  • a tragic waste.

Shakespeare followed a five-part structure for his plays:

ActIts Purpose
Act 1Outlines the situation and presents the characters.
Act 2Develops the situation and continues the action.
Act 3Presents the climax of the story and a specific change.
Act 4Continues developing the action.
Act 5Delivers the resolution of the conflicts.

🗡️ The Tragedy of Othello

Iago plots to revenge by telling lies and leading Othello to his downfall. Due to the rumors, the general kills his wife, Desdemona. He later understands what he did and kills himself. Iago is arrested.

So, is Othello a tragedy? Yes, definitely.

One of the main characteristics of the Shakespearean tragedy is the main hero’s weakness that results in his downfall. Many might say that Othello’s tragic flaw is jealousy. However, more recent interpretations suggest that his flaw was accepting the prejudices people had against him. He believed that he was unworthy of Desdemona’s love, and that’s what led to his destruction.

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Another Shakespearean tragedy characteristic present in Othello is the social status of the main character. At the beginning of the play, he is a respected nobleman. That’s why, in the end, his downfall is perceived as more tragic.

Lastly, Othello is a victim of external pressure. The evil and manipulative plots of Iago lead to his self-destruction, not solely his actions and jealousy.

📜 Othello and Aristotelian Tragedy

Initially, Aristotle outlined three elements that constitute a tragedy: hamartia, catharsis, and anagnorisis.

  • Hamartia is the tragic flaw of the main character that we’ve already discussed above.
  • Catharsis is the metaphor used to describe the actual effects of tragedy on the audience. Its prime purpose is to serve as a moral lesson and show the flaw’s adverse effects. At the end of the play, Othello realizes that he let Iago lead him astray, and because of his blind trust, he killed his wife.
  • Anagnorisis is the revelation of specific facts before unknown to the character. In the play, Othello realizes that Iago is evil and his wife was innocent all of the time.

Based on the set criteria, Othello is a tragedy. Yet, it has some characteristics that distinguish it from the classics.

Othello’s plot progression is quite unusual. The central conflict begins late and develops with progressive speed. The other peculiarity is that the audience sees the whole play through the villain’s eyes rather than the main character. Besides, the hero becomes an antagonist himself. He’s well-respected and loved initially, but as he gives into the raging jealousy, he becomes evil.

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👨‍🎨 Writing Style of Othello

The duality of speech mainly characterizes the play. From the very beginning, the antagonist, Iago, uses it to disguise his intentions. He speaks differently in the presence of other people. When he talks to Brabantio about Othello, he uses foul language. However, when he speaks to the audience, he is polite and poetic.

Iago’s manipulative speech makes others do what he needs them to do. Othello is under his control, which can be seen through his language as well. When the general becomes mad with jealousy, he uses repetitions. That suggests that Othello loses his control, as he is so overwhelmed. However, once he calms down and realizes what he did, he sounds poetic again.

Shakespeare often uses prose as the expression of madness. The shift from verse to prose shows the emotional change in characters as Othello’s jealous rage and Cassio’s drunken behavior are done in prose. It shows that they are not composed.

That’s it! Thanks for reading our analysis of Othello’s genre and style. To find out more information about Shakespeare’s play, check the articles below.

🎓 References

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"Genre." IvyPanda, 22 June 2021, ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/genre/.

1. IvyPanda. "Genre." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/genre/.


IvyPanda. "Genre." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/genre/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Genre." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/genre/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Genre'. 22 June.

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