What is the significance of Othello being a domestic tragedy?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of what makes Othello so significant as a domestic tragedy is the idea that what undermines the fabric of society is the same element that undermines the connective fabric between individuals.  Othello's inability to effectively understand and address his doubt and insecurity is what drives him to such a tragic end.  It is a domestic tragedy because what happens transpires on a personal level, between individuals.  Matters of the heart and their manipulation lead to a tragic condition in which individuals seek construct visions of creation that end up becoming visions of destruction.  The significance of this happening on a domestic level brings out the idea that the demons to possess individuals personally can manifest themselves in a social and political sphere.  While the role of leadership is evident in terms of political aspirations, the tragic implications of the drama are ones that happen on the simplest of levels.  Husband and wife, friends and confidants, family members betraying one another, and where trusted people become discarded are where the greatest rupturing of bonds happens.  This is domestic tragedy in nature because the shortcomings seen happen to anyone and can be applicable to everyone.  Othello's downfall is because of his own paranoia and doubt.  Iago's manipulations are done out of his own envy.  Desdemona's failure to recognize what is happening to her is out of her own blind loyalty and ignorance of factors around her.  The significance of these elements are that no matter what titles are conferred upon an individual, regardless of how much political stature an individual might have, and no matter how much wealth a person might attain, the same flaws of character can exist.  No trappings of external reality can hide these internal and personal conditions.  Shakespeare is able to use these ideas in the drama to suggest that at the basis of all great tragic conditions is a personal and domestic condition where these elements transpire.  In this, domestic conditions are reflections of something more. Personal love and political justice go hand in hand, and the failures in the former end up resulting in the lack of execution in the latter.  It is here where the significance and state of domestic tragedy in Othello is highly relevant.

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