Does Othello fit the tragic hero Aristotle projects?
The important qualifications for tragedy, according to Aristotle’s definition, are: The protagonist must have “a high place,” a rank or office, or title, etc.; he must “fall” from that place because of some “flaw” in his character, and the events must bring a “catharsis,” a “cleansing” to the audience and to the protagonist’s community. Shakespeare’s character has/had a high place in the Venice military, and was famous for his military exploits, but he is not the highest ranking person in the play (that is the Duke of Venice). Suicide (the end of Othello) is a way of “paying” for the imperfection that leads to the death of Desdemona. The tragic flaw, jealousy, is embodied in Iago, and is ameliorated to that degree, because Othello was jealous based on false evidence. As for the effect on the Shakespearean audience, that is difficult to assess. Finally, Othello’s apartness from Venetian society (emblemized in his race) changes the dynamic of the event for the Venetian populus—do they see it as a tragedy of their own, or simply a foreign-alien event? In other words, was it a tragedy in their eyes?