What is Othello's tragic flaw that causes his downfall?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One could argue that Othello's tragic flaw is jealousy. Othello trusts the malevolent Iago, who is dedicated to causing his downfall. Iago convinces Othello that Michael Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona, which sparks Othello's jealousy. Othello's jealousy is also fueled by his self-doubt and low self-esteem. He understands that he is an aging foreigner, who is not particularly refined or attractive. Despite being initially dismissive, Othello eventually demands to have proof of his wife's infidelity. Iago then goes on to tell Othello that he overheard Cassio talking in his sleep about his relations with Desdemona. Something as circumstantial as the handkerchief that Othello gave Desdemona becomes significant when she no longer possesses it. Iago uses the absent handkerchief to further influence Othello into believing that his wife is unfaithful. Unfortunately, Othello cannot see past his wife's apparent infidelity and ends up murdering her out of jealousy. 

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Othello's suffering results mostly from his poor judgment.  He trusts the wrong people and mistrusts those who are most loyal to him (Desdemona and Cassio).  In Act 3, he sets aside his sensible, military side and falls prey to Iago's manipulation.

It must be noted in Othello's case, though, that while he might share Brutus's tragic flaw (from Julius Caesar), Othello deserves more sympathy from the audience.  In a sense, he is a victim of his time period.  While Brutus exercised poor judgment throughout Julius Caesar, he was used to commanding respect because of his family and character and did not have to fight against prejudice.  In contrast, Othello's poor judgment largely results from his self-doubt regarding his true acceptance into European society.  He has been conditioned to think that he is not good enough for Desdemona or the inner sanction of white society.

While some argue that Othello's tragic flaw is jealousy, he really does not suffer from that until Iago plants seeds of doubt in his heart regarding Desdemona. Normally, Shakespeare's tragic characters establish a pattern connected to their tragic flaws, and there really is no pattern to justify jealousy as a flaw with which Othello has constantly struggled.

Here is a video about the characters of Othello:

slhull6 | Student

Envy. The green-eyed monster. Jealousy. Othello believes Iago and become vulnerable to anything negative simply because of his ability to be so very jealous. 

iarora | Student

othellos tragic flaw, like iagos, is his jealousy and unwillingness to sort stuf out- he doesnt even ask desde whats up

arjun | Student
Othello's tragic flaw is that he is light tempered and rash in action.
meredied | Student

That pretty false

Everyone trusts Iago, they call him "honest iago"
Othello went to war with Iago, he probably had to trust him with his life many times.

unspeakable49 | Student

Othello's tragic flaw is the importance he places in his honour and reputation. Othello falls for Iago's lies easily because he cannot stand the mere thought of his reputation being marred. Whether Desdemona has cheated on him or not, then becomes somewhat secondary, because only the possibility of her cheating is enough for Othello.

Othello believes that his reputation defines his personality. That's why he takes it so seriously because without his honour he's nothing.

This becomes his tragic flaw. A tragic hero is an essentially good man who makes a mistake that the audience can sympathise with. Only a good and noble man would have place so much importance in his reputation. Thus, Othello's honour becomes his weakness.

gutsygibbon | Student

Othello's tragic flaw is his gullible and naive nature. He is senseless and blindly believes Iago who manipulates him for his own benefit.

He is also a victim of circumstances and a poor decision-maker.



clarissa4107 | Student

othello is a dumb tragedy play