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Much like in William Shakespeare’s other tragic plays; the main characters in Othello possess character flaws. These character flaws are different for every character; however, some flaws are shared among characters. Some flaws can even be virtues that act as flaws because they are taken over the top to the point of annoyance. Tragic character flaws are those that lead to the downfall of the protagonist. These flaws can range anywhere from jealousy to cold-heartedness and can be very obvious or not apparent at all. Othello, Desdemona, and Iago are a few characters that possess tragic flaws, and therefore, are responsible for Othello’s demise.

A character who exhibits very obvious character flaws is Othello. Through the first couple acts of the play, Othello seems as noble and compassionate as can be, but this quickly shifts when Iago puts his plan into action. Iago’s accusations of Desdemona and Cassio’s affair effects Othello severely brings out his jealous side. Jealousy is Othello’s major tragic flaw. Jealousy ultimately leads him to the decision that he will kill his once beloved Desdemona:

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. (IV.i.65)

Othello drastically changes from a character that is loving and compassionate to admitting that his heart has turned to stone and he can love no more. His jealousy and gullibility overcomes his nobility and loving qualities which lead to him murdering his wife, and his ultimate death by suicide.

Like her husband, Desdemona also possesses critical character flaws. Desdemona is an interesting character because her virtues can also be perceived as flaws. Desdemona is a very honest and loving person to all, but sometimes her being over compassionate and outspoken about it gets her into trouble. When Desdemona is with Othello in front of Lodovico and his officials she expresses how she wants Cassio and Othello to make amends saying, “A most unhappy one/the love I bear to Cassio” (IV.i.66). In this situation, it does no good for her to speak up for Cassio, and her expression of love for Cassio angers Othello to the point where he strikes her. The tragic flaw of Desdemona going out of her way to show compassion towards Cassio instills even more sureness in Othello that he must kill her.

The man responsible for bringing out the tragic flaws of Othello is Iago. He is a



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