Discuss the idea that Othello's downfall is a result of his weaknesses and other circumstances, rather than Iago's deception. 

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A lot of critical interpretations of Shakespeare's Othello focus on the single-minded evil of Iago's deception and the ways in which it brings about Othello's downfall. However, while this fascinating and disturbing aspect of the play certainly deserves attention, it's important to consider whether some of Othello's characteristics are to blame. For instance, it seems impossible that Othello would experience such a tragic downfall if he didn't harbor some inherent weaknesses, such as a tendency for jealousy. Indeed, Othello's jealousy can be seen as one of the driving forces that causes him to see imagined infidelity and assume that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. In this way, it's possible to argue that Othello's weakness for jealousy causes his downfall. 

However, in considering this plausible claim, it's important to remember that, if it weren't for Iago's web of lies, Othello probably wouldn't have succumbed to jealousy in the first place. As such, we cannot entirely blame an inherent weakness or other circumstances for Othello's downfall. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that Iago uses deception to encourage Othello's tendency to be jealous, thus bringing about the protagonist's demise. As such, though Othello's weakness for jealousy certainly is partly responsible for the tragedy that ensues, Iago's deception is still a vital component to the heart-wrenching results of the play's plot.