What are the Qualifications of Othello as a Hero?
According to Professor Emmanuel Drakakis, Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most unusual tragic heroes, a combination of opposites in that he is a black man with a perfect soul. In this way, the theme of appearance versus reality is stressed from the very beginning. So long as his perfect soul rules his actions, he is the noble Moor. But once he becomes a victim of his passion and then this relationship is reversed and he seems to be as black in his soul as in his appearance. Though he is often referred to as black and thick-lipped, actually he is not black but only dark. It would be inappropriate to make Desdemona falling in love with an ugly hero, a Negro. In fact, he is a dark chief of Morocco with a number of noble qualities of head and heart.
A. C. Bradley says that Othello is by far the most romantic figure among Shakespeare’s heroes. He has come from a remote, wonderland, the distant, unknown Morocco. He has always lived a life of adventure and romance. He has traveled to distant lands and strange are the tales of his travels which he relates. Born in a royal family, he has experienced the ups and downs of life. Ones he was sold as a slave and it was with the difficulty that he could save himself and secure his release. In short, Shakespeare has done everything possible to cast him a halo of romance.
His life has been romantic and he also possesses the imaginations of the most sensitive romantic poet. His speeches reveal him to be a born poet. Even his casual phrases are full of poetic qualities. For example, here is the impassioned expression of his love for Desdemona:
“O my soul’s joy
If after every tempest come such calms
May the winds blow till they have wakened death.”
A proper analysis of the play would show that Othello’s poetic imagination is freely displayed throughout the play. Othello is a born soldier and an able General indispensable for the defense of Venice. Since boyhood, he has seen many battles and passed through many adventures. The result is that he is used to the hardships of military life so, he is well-known for his ability as a General. Even his bitterest enemy, Iago, admits his military ability:
“Another of his fathom they have none
To lead their business.”
Because Othello has passed all his life in the field of war, he has an innocence and simplicity like that of a child. He has no knowledge of wickedness that exists in human nature. He thinks men honest who appear to be so. Iago understands his true nature and so remarks:
“The moor is of a free and open nature
That thinks men honest but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by the nose
As asses are.”
It is because of his open frank nature that he is so easily deceived by Iago and becomes a victim of his intrigue. He is extremely credulous, simple, frank and honest. He acts quickly and rashly and his combination with simplicity leads to his ruin.
Othello loves Desdemona intensely and passionately but he fails to understand her true nature. As he himself tells us, he loves her but he is not very wise in his love. Desdemona is his very soul and his very life. He cannot live without her,
“Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! And when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.”
He loves her with all the warmth of his passionate nature and the very thought of being rejected by her drives him mad. In killing Desdemona he kills himself. He does not murder her but sacrifices her to the cause of chastity and justice. Actually, Othello is not jealous by nature but he is made jealous. He is a victim of the situation who suffers from conflicts and acts rashly. These viewpoints make him a tragic hero and the tragic atmospheres arouse our pity and fear.
In conclusion, we may say that Othello is the hero who fulfills all the conditions and requirements of Shakespearean tragic hero.