Discuss Othello as a Domestic Tragedy of Shakespeare

A domestic tragedy is the tragedy of the ordinary domestic life which deals with the married life of common people. It presents the vicissitudes of “things below” of things which belong to the everyday homely life. The passions and problems dealt with the domestic tragedies all related to the day to day life. The language of the domestic tragedy is also domestic which is free from rant, bumboat, declamation, and rhetoric which characterize the heroic tragedies.

Othello has certain features of a domestic tragedy. Its theme is also the impact of jealousy on the domestic life of Othello and Desdemona. Othello is not jealous by his nature but he is made jealous by the intrigue of Iago who hovers around him. Iago, through his intrigue, makes Othello jealous of Cassio and suspicious to Desdemona. He begins to doubt his innocent wile of having immoral relations with Cassio. He suffers hellish tortures in him. Being so suspicious ultimately, he destroys first Desdemona and then himself.

Though Othello has the impact of jealousy on married life as its theme, it differs from a domestic tragedy in many a respects. For one thing, Othello is not a common individual. He comes from a royal family and is an able general considered indispensable for the defense of Venice. He is appointed to the post of the Governor of Cyprus and on his ability hangs the tale of the nation. In short, he is not a common individual as the hero of a domestic tragedy usually is.

Not merely is Othello placed highly in society, he also has exceptional qualities of head and heart. Even his enemies acknowledge that he is of generous and noble nature. He is a courageous and skilled warrior. By his tales of travel, he is able to win over the heart of Desdemona who has an exceptional beauty. He is honest and frank. He can command and inspire confidence and is conscious that he can do so. When an exceptional individual falls, his fall produces the pity and terror proper to true tragedy.

In a domestic tragedy, the action of the drama moves on a common everyday level, the characters are nearer to us and so is the action. There is no remoteness and no suggestion of mysterious fatal forces working against mankind. All this cannot be said of Othello. Its action does not take place in familiar England but we are transported to romantic Venice and from there to the remote, unknown Cyprus. Although there are no ghosts or witches as in other tragedies, there is never the less a very strong sense of some hidden forces malignant and hostile. Iago who is the embodiment of evil appears in the very first scene and his appearance with all his evil designs fills us with foreboding. The impression of fatal force working against the hero and driving him to an inevitable doom is further strengthened by the preponderance of the chance elements.