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Othello is a romantic character. He has not been born and bred in familiar England; instead he comes from the remote and mysterious Morocco. He has lived a life of adventure and romance, traveling to distant and strange lands. He has also experienced the ups and downs of life. In spite of his noble background, he was once sold as a slave, and it was with great difficulty that he secured his release. Shakespeare has intentionally created an aura of romance and mystery around the dark Moor, and he puts poetic language and thoughts in his mouth to strengthen the image.
Othello is Shakespeare’s most unusual tragic hero. He is a combination of opposites. He is a ‘black’ man with a noble nature. In the beginning of the play, he is proud, intelligent, calm, patient, and self-confident. Once he falls a victim to his passions, he behaves in a most savage, brutal, and inhuman manner with his noble qualities vanishing completely.
Othello is a natural, bold, and fearless soldier and an able General. His knowledge comes from the battlefield, where he has spent most of his days. As a result, he is accustomed to the hardship of military life and the need to act quickly and decisively. As the leader of the Venetian troops, he is indispensable to the defense of the city. For this reason, he is sent to fight the Turks and protect Cyprus. The Duke of Venice and the Governor of Cyprus both acknowledge his military abilities and leadership. Even the evil Iago praises Othello’s military genius.
Since Othello has passed all his life in the fields of war, he has the innocence and simplicity of a child when it comes to social graces and worldly knowledge. In matters of life, he is simple, frank, and honest. He has no experience with the wickedness that exists in human nature. He thinks that men who appear honest, are really so. He is, thus, easily deceived by Iago and becomes a victim of this man’s villainous intrigue.
Othello loves Desdemona intensely and passionately. Although he is charmed by his young wife’s physical beauty and grace, he fails to understand that her true nature is pure and good. He does not know her well enough to realize that she could never be dishonest or unfaithful, especially not to her husband. Because of Iago’s evil scheming, he is led to believe that Desdemona has been unchaste and is tortured by the thought. At one point, he is in such a state of agony about Desdemona that he falls into an unconscious fit; later he loses control publicly and taunts and strikes his wife.
Othello’s fatal flaw is his jealousy. The worldly, wise Iago is quick to spot this weakness in the General and quickly uses it to get his revenge on him. Through manipulation, Iago makes Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio and then provides the "proof" of the infidelity that Othello demands. The good Othello is driven into a rage at his betrayal and easily succumbs to Iago’s suggestion that both his wife and "her lover" must be killed. Othello does not really want to murder his beautiful bride, as evidenced when he stands by her bed in anguish, looking at her loveliness; but he feels he must kill her for her sinful ways. After she is murdered and he finds out the truth about her innocence, he assumes full responsibility for his dastardly deed and for being stupidly led by Iago. He is in such pain over what he has done that he kills himself, dying as a true tragic hero.