Analysis of Othello

John Dexter saw Othello as 'a man essentially narcissistic and self-dramatising... a pompous, word-spinning arrogant black general'. However, Helen Gardner believed him to be 'a man of action and heroic in his deeds'. Using these views of Othello and your own opinions, how far do you agree that the tragic outcome of the play is due to character flaws in Othello?

One of the problems of analysing Othello's character is that he can be read in two mutually exclusive ways; he is either the self important, self-dramatising man Dexter saw; or the noble and tragic hero brought down by the manipulation of Iago that Gardner saw. As he has so few soliloquies, it is very hard to know what exists beneath his calm exterior before Iago's scheming destroys him; is he consciously trying to seem good and pure, or is it an intrinsic part of his character? In order to evaluate these ideas objectively, it is necessary to closely observe Shakespeare's portrayal of him throughout the play, concentrating on his language, and how other critics have viewed him.

Othello is made deliberately incongruous to his setting and fellow characters by Shakespeare. He is 'thick lips', and a 'black ram' to Desdemona's...

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