How does Othello's pride influence his actions?

Quick answer:

Othello's pride influences his actions by clouding his judgment and preventing him from making rational decisions. Firing Cassio and judging Desdemona are two examples of Othello acting rashly without logic and reason, instead giving in to his pride.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shakespeare's character Othello is known for making quick decisions, and his pride greatly influences those decisions. As a general, he is likely used to having to make snap judgments, as there is no time to think things through in war. One must immediately react. In his private life, it seems...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

that Othello cannot separate himself from that general. He continues to make quick judgments and relies on his instincts, which ultimately leads to his, as well as others', downfall.

Early on in the play, Othello allows his emotions to dictate his actions. When he hears that Brabantio is angrily seeking him, Othello refuses to hide. He states that his service to Brabantio in the past outdoes any complaint that Brabantio can bring against him. This is pure pride speaking. He wants it to be known that he is important.

Later on, when he breaks up the brawl in the street, Othello angrily declares,

My blood begins my safer guides to rule,And passion, having my best judgement collied,Assays to lead the way.

He warns everyone that his emotions are clouding his better judgement—just before he fires Cassio. Othello's quick judgment of fault without investigation foreshadows his future lack of thought.

When faced with Iago's lies, Othello is so angry and hurt at the thought of Desdemona's possible infidelity that he never stops to think rationally. His pride is greatly injured, and his insecurity and anger take over his judgement. Thus, after Iago's torturous show of so-called evidence, Othello will not stand back. He wants revenge and calls for

black vengeance [to arise] from hollow hell.

Othello has many opportunities to step back and think carefully. However, he instead relies only on Iago's word. He does not speak to his wife about Iago's accusations or consider rationally. He wants payback:

I will chop her into messes! Cuckold me?

Pride once again gets in Othello's way, as his concern is that infidelity would be an insult that would make him look bad.

Tragically, it is only after he murders Desdemona and destroys many lives that Othello learns of his fault. Faced with the horrible truth, he recognizes the jewel that Desdemona was and his own lack of judgement.

Approved by eNotes Editorial