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Is Othello a Bad Guy?

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The question of whether Othello is a positive or negative figure is rather controversial. On the one hand, he is a noble soldier and a careful Desdemona’s husband. On the other hand, he is too naive and insecure. Being predisposed to Iago’s trickery, Othello loses his mind. As a result, blinded by his jealousy, he kills his innocent wife and commits suicide. Overall, Othello does not look like the main villain of the story. Yet, he does not deserve the title of a positive character either.

Detailed answer:

Othello, the main character of William Shakespeare’s play, appears before the readers as a noble military man. Being a brave and strong commander, he leads the Venetian army to victory. Besides, he is a loving and careful spouse. Charmed by Desdemona’s amazing beauty, he loves her sincerely at the beginning of the play.

With the progress of the story, the plot turns in an unexpected direction. The villain, Iago, plays with Othello’s feelings. He puts into the Moor’s head thoughts about Desdemona’s affair with the soldier Cassio. Why does Iago do it? Because he is jealous of Othello for his professional achievements and personal life. The villain proclaims:

“I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well;
The better shall my purpose work on him.”
(Act 1, scene 3)

Othello’s reaction to Iago’s rumors transforms him to a great extent. The Moor’s behavior demonstrates his negative qualities, neutralizing his positive image.

Othello’s gullibility and naivety play a cruel joke with him, causing jealousy and anger. Without any explanation, he begins to mistreat his wife. Such behavior indicates the Moor’s self-doubt, his tendency to condemn without clarifying the circumstances. Othello becomes a weak hero who also acts against himself. Moreover, the final scene of the play demonstrates his weakness. Instead of condemning Iago, who intended to separate Othello from Desdemona, the main character commits suicide.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Is Othello a Bad Guy'. 24 November.

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