Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does the tragic flaw of Othello cause his downfall in Shakespeare's Othello

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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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ahicks3 | Student

The tragic flaw within Othello is his own lack of faith and belief in Desdemona and his love. We see early in the play Iago try to reason with him that Desdemona is unfaithful. Othello quickly assures him that he is wrong and maintains his faith in her.Throughout the story, however, Iago tries and succeeds eroding Othello's faith. Later on, when Iago presents Othello Desdemona's handkerchief and her secret conversation between her and Cassio, we see Othello truly become doubtful of her. He, in turn, relinquishes his faith for a lie by deducing that seeing is believing for him and submits to Iago's plan unknowingly. The tragic flaw of Othello causes his downfall because the renowned war general is unable to realize that true faith as well as love, is something to be believed and not seen.