Tragic Hero

1) How does Othello fit Aristotle’s definition of the “Tragic Hero”–if at all? What qualities does the character exhibit (or not exhibit) that define Aristotle’s model?

2) Analyze Iago’s self-expressed justification for his plot against Othello: How does he explain his hatred of Othello? Is this explanation sufficient to justify his vicious “vendetta”? Why or why not?

3) Analyze the factors that create the play’s outcome: What elements in Othello’s personality interact with with his social situation to bring about his “metamorphosis’ from noble leader to ruthless wife-killer? How does Iago connect and manipulate these factors?

4) Analyze the relationship between Othello and Desdemona. What qualities define and create their love for each other? Why does she love him? He, her? If such exists, what is the central weakness of their marriage that makes it so vulnerable?

5) Trace the progress of Iago’s “project’ from its beginning. In what order does he arrange the “steps” of his mission to destroy Othello? How does he manipulate individuals and circumstances to achieve “success”? (Note: Don’t try this at home, kids; Shakespeare did NOT present Iago as a “role-model” for executive success in corporate America!)

6) Define the “aside” and the “soliloquy” as stage devices. Why does Shakespeare use them in the play? (Be sure to point out important examples of these two techniques in the play.)

7) Define Aristotle’s use of the term “katharsis”; does the movement of the plot in Othello provide this kartharsis, as Aristotle defined it? Why or why not?

8) The play has been labeled, at various times in Western culture, “racist.” Is this a valid charge? What role does the racial / ethnic element play in Othello? Is it more of a concern to our own society, moreso than the Elizabethan audience?

9) Out of all the “dupes’ in the play–that is, everyone but Iago, who may even have “duped” himself, in fact–what character comes closest to recognizing what the “I-Guy” is up to? Who comes closest to discovering the plan and averting the bloody ending of the play? How? What essential “pieces” of the puzzle are missing?

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