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How is Othello (the man) extreme?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted November 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM via web

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How is Othello (the man) extreme?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted November 5, 2013 at 11:21 AM (Answer #1)

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In the play 'Othello' by William Shakespeare we see a man of extremes, but a man who 'keeps it all together' on the outside. On the surface Othello is an enormous success, he has made the very best of life that he can by maximising all his gifts and talents - bravery, good judgement, shrewd forward planning, personnel management, leadership and wisdom. The sort of man who engenders confidence and trust - a soldier who can be trusted, who can be sent anywhere in the world and can be trusted to make the right call in any conflict. His progress is all the more stunning because of the perceived disadvantage of the colour of his skin, and yet there has been fallout from this - albeit covered up well.

However, Othello has an Achilles Heel; it is likely that prejudice early on damaged his self-esteem and wounded his fragile pride due to his race and his age. There are wily foxes out there who see the frailty and know how to work on it and cause the extreme low self esteem so far hidden down in the depths of Othello's character to come to the surface and drown him in abysmal failure. Othello is extreme in his reaction to perceived slights and criticisms because he already feels 'he isn't worth it' in terms of Desdemona's love. Once the tide is unleashed, Othello's reaction is extreme in that his revenge is unable to be tempered by reason or measure - he cannot regulate his own behaviour or reactions.

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