Good Research Paper About Confrontation Of Aristotle Theory With Tragedy Othello

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Theater, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Tragedy, Accident, Othello, Literature, Actions

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/11/19

First paragraph: Complete departmental and institutional affiliation

Second paragraph: Changes in affiliation (if any)
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Confronting Aristotle theory with tragedy Othello
The main aim of this research is confront the Aristotelian theory around the Greek tragedy with Othello by William Shakespeare.
A Classic hero makes mistakes but human fate, destiny, plays a crucial role in the unfolding of the story and in the conclusion. In practice in the classical works the hero is someone who does something reckless, but it's still a decent man whose error is not attributable to baseness, depravity or vice: he makes a mistake that the destiny had planned he would perform. Unlike the works of Shakespeare, fate plays a fundamental role since it is presented as an unearthly force, which, for the fulfillment of history, solves the intricate affair in a stable, permanent new situation. This element (the fate) that characterizes the classic tragedy, is not present in the works of Shakespeare since in his plays the man is always master of his destiny.
Shakespeare, also, comes away from the canons of Aristotelian theater. Seneca along with Aristotle, who was the first to give a concrete example of the first dramatic texts and comedies, will influence the very Shakespearean theater but not at the schematic level. In fact Aristotle hypothesized a work, a theatrical tragedy, according to three major units: time, action and place.
Firstly the time unity: the work has to be carried out not exceeding the duration of a day. Secondly the place: the story was to be staged in a fixed place. Thirdly the unity of action: the hero must never be despised but rather appreciated as full of quality, a respectable man of a certain rank that falls victim to human nature.

Qualitative elements of tragedy

At the middle half of Book VI of Poetics, Aristotle said that all or most of tragic pieces consist of six basic elements defining the qualitative aspects of the genre: the plot, the characters, the thoughts (dianoia), the dictions (lexiss), the melody (melos), and the spectacles (opsis). And also argues that it is through them that the tragedy gain its very specific characters and become different from other imitative arts like music, painting, sculpture, epic and comedy. On the other hand, he argues that among the six constituent elements of tragedy, the most important is the argument. Since it is through it that suitable material of tragic drama is organized: the tragedy as such, is a high and complete imitation of life and misery or happiness of men. Therefore the tragic genre should focus on imitating the action. However, for Aristotle as the argument was always paramount for the construction of tragedy, we will focus on developing a synthesis of Othello argument and the corresponding analysis of it, in order to ascertain whether Othello could be read as a tragic hero, according to Aristotle’s precept.

The argument of Othello

The tragedy, according to Aristotle, is a representation of action, of life, of happiness and unhappiness. That is why he suggests that the argument or facts of tragic drama should be well organized: because they are themselves the end of the tragedy, the beginning and the soul of it. The content is what creates the tragic genre. A drama, due to the content, may be labelled under the generic name of tragedy. It all depends on the argument: it has to contain horrible and regrettable facts. Because of that, we will analyze the plot of the play Othello regarding the standpoint of Aristotle.
First, You can tell that the argument it's described and suggested by the Aristotle in his Poetics, since Othello's structure is formed by an argument complex, ie, by vicissitudes and recognition, and this type of argument is considered by Aristotle as one of the most important of the two classes of arguments identified in the work. Then, that argument is capable of eliciting own affections of the tragic genre, namely, compassion and fear.
Secondly, concerning the organization of events, it complies with the norms suggested by Aristotle in his work: namely that the events in the drama should have a link between them and it has to be necessary and possible. The theme should have the appropriate magnitude for it to develop the plot, because the events in the play are given in five acts, which are suitable to the Moor to pass from glorious success to such a misery. This could bring us to believe that tragedy has been composed as suggested by Aristotle, namely with beginning, middle and an end, which is the correct structure of all tragedies.
However the plot unfolds in two different spaces. The first, Venice, can be seen in Act I. and then the second is staged on the Island of Cyprus. This second space, again, is divided into two: the first will be the shore, in Act II, and the second will be the citadel, from Act III to the Act V.
Now, with respect to the unit of time, the tragic action takes start overnight in Venice, as shown in the act I and continues for two days and nights on the island of Cyprus where are performed the most important actions of the tragedy between Act II and Act V.
If we confront what was said by Aristotle in Poetics, that the development of the action must be developed in the course of a solar period then the development of Othello extends more than it should as affirmed in Aristotle's work. Therefore, we can say that in this aspect the Shakespearean's play is not compatible with a requirement given in Aristotle's theory of tragedy.
Furthermore, if we contrast the argument of Othello tragedy with the four types of tragedy given by Aristotle in his work, we can say that besides being a pathetic tragedy it is also a complex tragedy because its argument consists of vicissitudes, and recognition which are the essential components of a complex tragedy. And such components are observed in the tragedy Othello, because the vicissitudes of peripeteia consists in change a given situation into its opposite exactly as occurred to Othello.

The tragic hero?

Aristotle, in Book 13 of his Poetics, describes the character of the protagonist of Greek tragedy, namely, the tragic hero. He has not to be good or bad, he must remain in the medium between the two types: good and innocent or bad and selfish. However, following the Aristotelian approach is clear: Aristotle's proposal was oriented to base a theory on the typology of the character of the tragic hero. From this arises the question: Why Aristotle strives to suggest such a presupposition?
In our view, such a suggestion revolves around the effect of the tragedy, because Aristotle's porpouse is to describe an appropriate character for the proposed construction of tragedy's structure. A very specific character that will be able to arouse in the spectator, or in the reader, passions like compassion and fear, ie proper tragedy's passions. And it is for this reason that the philosopher rule out the possibility of a good or a bad hero hero: because with such types of heroes will not be possible for the tragic drama to to achieve its goal, as it has been declared. In the opinion of Aristotle, the tragic hero must be "noble" and "innocent". From the conception of Aristotelian nobility, follows that the tragic agent must be a king or a prince, or also that it should be descendants of some deity, as seen in the characters of Greek tragedies (Oedipus, Hecuba, Orestes, Iphigenia, Electra, Hippolytus, Helena, among others).
Now if we compare the character of Othello, who is the tragic agent of the work under analysis, it has to be observed that the Moor corresponds to a part of the ideal character of the tragic hero described by Aristotle.
He does not stands not for his virtue, nor in his iniquity; but rather, he lies between the two extremes, exactly as an Aristotlean middle character, ie, his acts constantly travel between the good and evil. Furthermore, the general Othello enjoys fame and fortune in the Venetian community, he is noble (but in the sense of Christian nobility) as we are told , and finally, he lives the transaction from happiness to misery. Although he committed regrettable and tragic actions, still he is worthy of being pitied by any viewer or reader until the end of the play.
As it can be seen in the following passages: addressing Othello: “Let him do his spite: / My services which I have done the signiory / Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know,-/ Which, when I know that boasting is an honour” (p. PAGENUMBER). However, any reader or viewer that will read or will witness the tragedy of Othello, cannot abstain to emit a moral judgment on the actions carried out by the Moor, because they will notice that he acted knowing what he was doing and that he had already deliberated action beforehand. As it can be seen in the following passage.

OTHELLO Ay, let her rot, and perish, and be damned to-night;

for she shall not live: no, my heart is turned to
stone; I strike it, and it hurts my hand. O, the
world hath not a sweeter creature: she might lie by
an emperor's side and command him tasks. (p. PAGENUMBER)
However, as shown in the above passage, Othello had already made a decision: putting to death his beloved wife with his own hands and without remorse and without mercy. He decided to undertake such a venture without first listening to Desdemona, without putting into question all the things told by his official Yago.
Now, we can investigate the following questions: under what conditions has Othello conducted his purpose or action? Has Othello to be considered innocent or naive? And most of all, does the character of Othello fit with what is described by Aristotle in the book 13?


Martindale, C., & Taylor, A. B. (2004). Shakespeare and the classics. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.
Felperin, H. (2015). Shakespearean Representation: Mimesis and Modernity in Elizabethan Tragedy. Princeton University Press.
Kaufmann, W. A. (1992). Tragedy and philosophy. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Kolin, P. (2013). Othello: Critical Essays. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Pechter, E. (2012). Othello and Interpretive Traditions. University of Iowa Press.
Rorty, A. (1992). Essays on Aristotle's Poetics. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

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