According to Aristotle’s views a tragic hero is consistent and therefore should not be subject to sudden change if it does not contribute to the story or if it is not clearly motivated. If Othello is a tragic hero by Aristotle’s definition then character must be exposed rather than transformed by Shakespeare. Arguing that the story of Othello is a transformation would contradict Aristotle’s belief of consistency. In Act III, scene iii when Othello says ‘I’ll tear her with all to pieces! ” The usage of brutal metaphor, animalistic and hyperbolic language portrays his aggressive character.
Furthermore, exclamation underlines the dramatic tone and his seriousness. Through the use of those techniques Shakespeare manifestly exaggerates the brutality of Othello. This gives us the impression of Shakespeare’s racism in that the aim of this tragedy might be to convince its audience to have a negative view about the black race. Therefore, the way that Othello humiliates Desdemona through slapping her in front of other characters is inevitable because it is something than Elizabethans would expect.
Considering the fact that Elizabethans were particularly suspicious about black people it is likely that the play mirrors their negative views. Therefore, Othello’s exposure of weaknesses such as violence, aggression, radicalism and the ability to murder is an exposure of his nature as a black man. In comparison Othello’s obsession with the handkerchief might be seen as an evidence of his transformation.
In Act IV, scene II Othello exclaims ‘Pish! Noses, ears, and lips. Is’t possible? Confess–handkerchief! O devil! Here, Shakespeare presents Othello’s character through the use of rhetorical question, swearing and metonymy which ends with an exclamation mark. The fact that there is an emphasis placed on the end stopping and Othello’s declamation is heavily punctuated depicts how fast his mind is jumping from one thing to another; firstly swearing; secondly rhetorical question and the concept of confession. This demonstrates his anger and the fact that he’s losing control. Alternatively, this can be seen as a revelation of his true character. Thus this internal ‘chaos’ can be perceived as a trigger for the transformation of Othello.
Also the handkerchief reveals Othello’s exotic background and history and he is sentimentally attached to it. The disrespect of this symbol can be the cause for his transformation as well as exposure. Shakespeare uses the symbol of the handkerchief to highlight the differences between Othello’s and other character’s beliefs. Therefore, it might be suggested that Othello’s character by Iago’s manipulation succumbs to transformation and becomes violent. In addition, Othello’s lack of experience of being in relationship helps to expose his jealousy.
We can infer that when he tells his life story in Act 1 scene 3 as his romantic experiences are notably absent. When Emilia assumes that Othello might be jealous Desdemona undermines it by replying ‘Who, he? I think the sun where he was born drew all such humours from him’. This suggests that feelings of jealousy had not been previously explored by Othello. Also, the emphasis placed on the rhetorical question (“Who, he? “) suggests that Desdemona is fully settled in her belief in Othello’s rationalism towards their relationship.
Thus it is logical that although Othello’s highly developed jealousy in the play, it is a new experience that he had never encountered before. Moreover, Othello’s insecurity in his relationship is further revealed in Act III, scene iii in one of Othello’s responses “Not a jot, not a jot”. The repetition implies that he’s not fully convinced of his position towards his relationship; repeating his words in an attempt to convince himself as well as Iago. ` On the other hand it is important to explore how our attitude towards Othello modifies through the beginning of the play.
There are three key elements. The first lies in Act I, scene I when Iago often offends Othello by describing him as a ‘Barbary horse’ that ‘covered’ innocent Desdemona. The usage of animalistic imagery and sexually brutal metaphors clearly suggests that Othello does not enjoy positive attitudes and respect from other characters. Secondly, in Act I, scene III Othello is presented as a well-respected man heavily experienced by his previous struggles as he refers to ‘disastrous chances’, ‘moving accidents’ and ‘hair-breadth scapes’.
It is important to point out that Othello tells a synecdoche using exaggerations and personifications such as ‘insolent foe’ and ‘moving accidents by flood and field’ to make sure that the listeners fully acknowledged his courage. This technique is common for Greek tragedies such as ‘Oedipus Rex’ and other Shakespeare’s tragedies such as ‘Hamlet’ to display events that do not happen in the play directly but revealed by particular characters in their speeches or dialogues. This also rapidly changes our view about Othello.
His confidence and high rank as well as his previous experiences hardly affect on the fact that we become to see him as an impressive character. Conversely, Othello lacks in confidence and presents insecurity about his race in one of his very first speeches when he clearly undermines his orator skills (‘Rude am I in my speech’). Essentially, this shows the first signal of Othello’s self- consciousness. Even though his high rank as an army leader Othello’s character still consider himself as an inferior.
Further this affects on the exposure of his tragic flaws. Yet, according to Iago’s perspective point of view the character of Othello has been exposed as he often describes him at the beginning of the play as a ‘Barbary horse’ whereas from Othello’s point of view his character has been transformed because he presents himself as a self-confident and noble character in his very first speeches in Act I. The issue of Othello’s past largely connected with his nature has been also explored by F. R Leavis.
He states that ‘self-centredness doesn’t mean self-knowledge’. According to F. R Leavis, Othello doesn’t want to face his tragic flaws perhaps seeing himself in quite centralised position of a man who is never at fault, but eventually submitting to Iago’s persuasion. This obviously destabilizes the theory that Othello’s presentation in the play is a transformation of his character. Therefore, according to Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero Othello displays here as a consistent and noble character who’s fundamental flaws has been exposed afterwards.
Similarly, Othello’s arrogance and race led him to feel different to the other characters in the play //Haply for I am black, and have not those soft parts of conversation// (Act III, scene iii). This suggests that Othello differentials himself due to his race and education/background. This implies that he slowly becomes convinced of Desdmona’s relationship with Cassio mainly because he feels alien and sees Cassio as a native threat to his relationship. Some may argue that this stands as a first signal of Othello’s transformation as comes to feel unstable.
Othello seems to believe that he is inarticulate and ‘barbaric’, lacking “those soft parts of conversation”. This is also the first time that Othello, and not Iago, calls negative attention to his race or age. However it could be also Othello’s character contributed to the exposure of his tragic flaws. Similarly, the negative portrayal of black race is also mentioned of the Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Titus Andronicunus’ where Aaron is heavily presented as ‘villain’ – a character made by an author in order to create animosity towards Aaron among the audience.
Thus Othello’s insecurity and lack of confidence contributed to the exposure of his tragic flaws and the reason for his violent actions. Ultimately, some may argue that the story of Othello is a transformation of Othello’s character because in Act III, scene iii Othello appears to be highly rational and offended when Iago mentions jealousy ” I’ll see before I doubt, when I doubt, prove”. The rhythm creates a feeling of regularity and stability within Othello’s character in a stark contrast to Othello’s presentation later in the play. Some might believe that people change by the impact of environment or influence of other characters.
However, early presented factors such as Othello’s insecurity and the issue of black race need to be considered. This creates the dilemma concerning the time of Othello’s possible transformation. Indeed, Othello’s reaction on Desdemona’s apparent affair was suspiciously quick and that exposure builds quickly whereas transformation takes longer. The final piece of evidence that this is a story of exposure is placed in Othello’s death speech in act V, scene ii when Othello says ‘Of one not easily jealous but, being wrough, perplexed in the extreme’.
The dramatic tone of his declamation proves the fact that he feels ashamed of what he has done. Other than that Othello presents himself as a person who has not been previously jealous and someone has turned him to jealousy. Thus he suggests that he sees himself as transformed rather than exposed. However I would argue that this can be seen as an evidence of his exposure as Othello highly regrets his violent behaviour. Furthermore, he commits suicide which simply contradicts the theory of transformation as someone who has been transformed wouldn’t regret his actions.