In Othello, the namesake of the play is a powerful and celebrated general in the Venitian army. Othello holds himself in high regard and suffers from a tragic flaw, or hamartia—the thing that brings his downfall is something from his own personality. In the play, Othello’s tragic flaw is his sense of self-importance, what the ancient Greeks would have called hubris, translated to mean excessive pride.
Othello holds himself with high regard. He sees his accomplishments and feels pride in what he has done. He came from humble origins and is a foreigner among the Venetians, yet he is considered brave and has earned his noble position through hard work and valor. It makes sense that Othello values his reputation above almost anything else because as black man in Italy, he has faced constant derision from others his entire life.
His desire to keep his reputation intact becomes all-consuming in the play and eventually leads to his murder of Desdemona,
To try me with affliction, had they rained
All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steeped me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes,
I should have found in some place of my soul.
A drop of patience. But, alas, to make me
The fixed figure for the time of scorn
To point his slow and moving finger at!
Yet could I bear that too, well, very well.
But there where I have garnered up my heart (act 4, scene 2)
Othello tells Desdemona that he has been given “all kinds of sores and shames” on his head—alluding to the story of Job. The sores and shame is a metaphor for the injustice he thinks Desdemona has done him in her infidelity. Her cheating will cost him his reputation and make him a laughingstock among his men and the citizens of Venice. To Othello, who values his reputation because of what it cost to earn, the loss of his image and respect is a step too far. This view is what leads to him strangling her.
The reason his pride is his flaw is that if he had taken a moment to investigate more, to see beyond his reputation, he might have realized that Iago was not trustworthy. Instead, he sees the slightest threat to his reputation, and because he values it more than his wife, he kills her to protect and avenge it. Ultimately, Othello is brought down because he rejects the very thing that made him a respected general—bravery. He is no longer brave in the face of ridicule and instead lets his fear, jealousy, and pride lead him to murder.