Othello Act 5 Scene 2
In Act 5 Scene 2 Shakespeare builds up to a dramatic climax with Desdemona’s death when Othello strangles her and that of a pitiful Othello realises he has been tricked by Iago, takes his own life. Much debate has taken place as to whether Othello can be viewed as a tragic hero. Is he a man that earns our respect or sympathy? Act 5 Scene two opens with a soliloquy from Othello. The opening statement is “It is the cause, it is the cause” This shows that Othello believes strangling his own wife for being deceitful is justified. He believes that Desdemona deserves what is about to happen to her.
However, the audience are plagued with the knowledge that it is not justified and she is innocent. Yet he has allowed the powers of language and manipulation to capture his mind. Language once again plays a roll when Othello’s language cannot hide his emotions towards his wife. “Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, and smooth as monumental alabaster:” This metaphor highlights Desdemona’s innocence as he compares her to light. This shows he is still in love with her, which makes the crime he is about to commit all the more shocking and tragic to the audience. “Put out the light, and then put out the light.
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,” This irony shows once again the power of language spears over Othello’s actions. Shakespeare has cleverly shown this through Othello’s language as if Othello is a tortured man between his love for Desdemona and also his hatred for what he is accusing her of. Therefore, this would suggest that Shakespeare is portraying Othello as a tragic figure due to the torture he is enduring.
As the scene continues he finally reveals to Desdemona what she has supposedly done. “Sweet soul, take heed, take heed of perjury; thou art on thy death bed. Othello is not prepared to listen to Desdemona’s explanation even though he thinks himself as a man of justice. “O banish me, my lord, but kill me not. ” Othello replies to Desdemona’s plea, “Down strumpet! ” Othello is displaying that he isn’t being the reasonable man he once was. Here Shakespeare’s tragedy begins to emerge, if only Othello would have listened and trusted his wife? Othello is so consumed with betrayal and anger; he sees it only fit to execute justice with this perjury. In Aristotle’s definition of tragedy the protagonist’s downfall is caused by a series of bad choices caused by a tragic flaw in their character.
Often this flaw is hubris. This is Othello’s flaw in his character, he is not willing to give Desdemona the time to explain herself, and he does not care for what she has to say as he so gullible he already believes completely what Iago has told him. “Kill me tomorrow: let me live tonight! ” Here Desdemona is pleading for her life. The anxiety in the audience would be sublime – they know Emilia is on her way with the truth. This adds to Shakespeare’s portrayal of Othello as a tragic figure as he still does not listen to Desdemona due to his consumption of rage and hatred.
The audience know that if Othello were to be that reasonable man we met at the beginning of the play, there would have been a very different outcome for both Desdemona and Othello. “I would not have thee linger in thy pain. ” This irony displays Othello does not like the idea of someone being in pain yet he has just smothered his wife. This glimpse of language could remind the audience of the man he used to be. After Othello kills Desdemona Emilia arrives and the audience can see she’s too late. However, Desdemona lets out one final cry which then leads Othello to his confession. Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. O farewell. ” This is cryptic; Desdemona is not making any sense. She blames herself and does not put the fault on Othello. This shows Desdemona’s loyalty as a wife and her love for Othello.
Shakespeare has done this to add to the tragedy as it shows the audience just what Othello has lost, due to his own gullible and jealous ways. Othello’s language conveys the poison injected into Othello’s mind by Iago. “She’s like a liar gone to burning hell, ’twas I that killed her. This simile proposes the question to the audience; does Othello honestly believe he is the minister of justice? This could show just how deluded Othello is if he still believes that what he did was justified. “Thou dost belie her, and thou art a devil” This is a strong metaphor which shows Emilia’s love for Desdemona and that leads her to speak out regardless of the consequences in defence of her mistress’s honour. “I did proceed upon just grounds to this extremity. Thy husband knew it all. ” This is the final judgment of Othello as he still tried to justify his actions to for Emilia’s and his own benefit.
This could suggest seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind about what he has just done to Desdemona. Shakespeare is still showing parts of Othello’s personality of which he is a good man and not a cold blooded murderer. We can see that Othello is defiantly a changed man as he speaks to Emilia with sexist tones much like Iago. While Emilia is speaking to him voicing her disgust in what he has done he even gives the impression he may strike her, similar to what he did to Desdemona in Act 4. Shakespeare is portraying him as tragic as he is becoming more and more like Iago which is not something that will benefit Othello.
Emilia even starts to call Othello “The Moor” this is a negative reference and shows she has no respect for him. Emilia finds out it is her husband Iago who has caused all this tragedy, she then reveals the truth to Othello. “Are there no stones in heaven but what serve for thunder? Precious villain! ” Shakespeare has used a metaphor to show Othello’s realisation that it is Iago that is the villain not Desdemona or Cassio. Iago then continues with his villainous ways and kills Emilia for speaking the truth.
“But why should honour outlive honesty? Here Othello is asking the question why should reputation outlive an honest person. We can see that Othello has gone back to his old self after the sudden realisation that his wife Desdemona committed no crime. The audience will feel an element of sympathy for Othello as we can now witness a broken man embellished in tragedy. “I have another weapon in this chamber; it was a sword of Spain, the ice-brook’s temper. O here it is. Uncle, I must come forth. ” Obtaining the sword is Othello preparing himself for his suicide or it could be interpreted as a symbol of his recovery of his true self.
This is tragic because just as Othello goes back to his true self he is going to end his life as the damage is already done. Before Othello stabs himself he makes one final speech to the other characters on stage and the audience. The speech is full of heroic language which is his attempt to reduce his foul treacherous murder. Othello tries to die with honour and some reputation intact. “Soft you; a word to two before you go. I have done the state some service, and they know’t. ” He is still fixated on the cause of public image.
His speech is powerful with imagery of Desdemona as a “pearl” that he has thrown away. Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away. ” A. C Bradley says “The deed he is bound to do is no murder, but a sacrifice. ” This adds to the argument that Othello is a tragic hero, as he is making a sacrifice by committing suicide due to the guilt he feels for killing Desdemona. However, F. R Leavis disagrees with A. C Bradley’s view of Othello as a tragic hero. “He has discovered his mistake, but there is now tragic self discovery. ” Leavis is suggesting that Othello has not went through a tragic discovery about himself, he has simply realised has done something wrong.
It seems as though Leavis is saying Shakespeare has over dramatised Othello’s reaction when he finds out the truth about Iago. In conclusion, I believe Shakespeare has portrayed Othello as a tragic hero due to him being a victim of his own fate. “Othello’s nature is all of one piece. His trust, where he trusts, is absolute. Hesitation is almost impossible to him. ” This A. C Bradley’s view of Othello. It supports my belief that Othello is a victim of his own fate as it is his fault that he trusts so easily and completely. If he had questioned Iago at all then maybe the outcome would have been different for him.
Shakespeare conveys the tragedy through Othello’s actions and language. However, we can see due to no doing of his own that his personality has completely changed. He no longer resembles the kind man we met at the beginning of the play, he is now only a shell of the man he once was. This is tragic as at the end of the play Othello has the sudden realisation he needed however, now it is too late. Shakespeare’s decision to have Othello kill himself suggests he could not live with the guilt of killing the woman he loved. Therefore, proving he wasn’t truly the evil man Iago had turned him into.