Shakespeare depicts Othello’s hamartia (tragic flaw in character) to be a gullibility in listening to the wrong person, a misguided jealousy and mistrust, and a passionate tendency to overreact. This tragic flaw leads not only to Othello’s downfall but to the downfall of several other characters as well.
Othello places emotion over reason. We see this when he stops the street brawl and warns everyone that “my blood begins my safer guides to rule.” He threatens anyone who lifts an arm to fight and demands an explanation from the brawlers. Ironically, he is an experienced general who must lead with common sense and logic, not emotion. In his personal life, Othello does the opposite, and he allows his anger to take control. Shakespeare illustrates this anger throughout the play, as Iago leads Othello to the incorrect conclusion that Desdemona is cheating on him. Othello is frequently observed allowing passion to “lead the way” and he even strikes his wife at one point.
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