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Othello is certainly a tragedy by every definition of the word. In the most basic and commonplace sense, it is the story of terrible events, ending in violent death. A newspaper reporting on the carnage involved, particularly the murder of the innocent Desdemona, might legitimately describe the events of the play as tragic. Beyond this, Othello is a classical tragedy according to the criteria set forth by Aristotle in the Poetics. A great man of noble character, Othello, falls from a high position through his tragic flaw (in this case, jealousy) and in the process gains self-knowledge and understanding of the world around him. The audience experiences pity and terror at the sight of this fall, leading to the purgation of these emotions in a process Aristotle calls catharsis.

Othello is also a prime example of Renaissance tragedy and, of course, Shakespearean tragedy. A.C. Bradley, one of the most influential critics of Shakespeare in the early twentieth century, named it as one of the four...

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Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on December 31, 2019
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