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Shakespeare's Othello. A Good Man?

Updated on March 22, 2009

From reading literature, like that of William Shakespeare, we have come to witness the concepts of good and evil. Moreover, we can appreciate the role that good an evil play on various characters which reflects the essence humans have. In the Shakespearean play of Othello, we can comprehend the characterization of a good man in in the character of the protagonist himself. Of course, Othello is not perfect, but the erroneous decisions that he makes are caused by his tragic flaws of jealousy and gullibility. As a result, setting Othello up to be the classical tragic hero of the play. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the characterization of Othello is ultimately good because he is compassionate, has an honorable reputation, dies recognizing his faults, but most importantly, pays his debt to society.

At the beginning of the play, we can see that Othello is of high status in the Venetian society because of his position as a military general. Moreover, we can also note that Othello is considered a respectable man by most of the surrounding characters. For example, the Duke of Venice and a senator refer to him as “valiant” (I.iii.45-47). Montano refers to Othello as “brave” (II.i.38). Even a herald praises Othello as he proclaims to the Cyprians that Othello is “our noble and valiant general” (II.ii.1-2). Undoubtedly, all of these characteristics are of a good man. Still, as the play unfolds we start to see Othello’s tragic flaws that will eventually lead him to his own demise.

At the resolution of the play, we can still see how Othello is a good man. In fact, as he prepared to killed his wife, he praised her by saying, “Yet I’ll not shed her blood; nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, and smooth as monumental alabaster” (V.ii.3-5). If Othello were to be an evil man, then he would insult his wife and treat her like trash in a situation like this. In addition to this, in the same scene, Othello acts as a religious counselor when he gives Desdemona the chance to repent from her sins. So he says, “If you bethink yourself of any crime unrecognized as yet to heaven and grace, solicit for it straight” (V.ii.26-28). Eventually, Othello kills Desdemona. However, the reason that Othello gives for killing his wife is not egotistical but rather unselfish. So he says, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men” (V.ii.6). In doing all of these compassionate and benevolent acts, Othello shows his goodness and the desire to help Desdemona, despite him killing her.

If this is not enough to prove Othello’s goodness, then I should also add that Othello has the courage to recognize that his downfall was brought about by his own actions. Of course, evidence of Othello’s recognition can be noted when he says, “When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate…but being wrought perplex‘d in the extreme…” (V.ii.340-345). Short thereafter, Othello commits suicide. Thus, making him the tragic hero of the play.

Ultimately, Othello is a good man. We can see this throughout the entire play, but the definitive evidence of Othello’s goodness is shown by his last deed. In the final scene of Act IV, Othello decides to kill himself. In making the ultimate sacrifice of taking his own life, Othello pays his debt to society by punishing himself for the wrongs he did.


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      al 3 months ago

      Othello says himself "For, in my sense, 'tis happiness to die"- him killing himself isn't punishment, it's his selfish release from world. If he were to truly punish himself, he'd stay alive, as Iago is left. On another note, your argument of him being a respected man is completely relevant to whether he's a good man- Iago's pretty well respected as the 'honest' Iago, he's by no means a good man, is he? Besides, him being a good man in state matters does not translate into the domestic sphere, where the real action of the play takes place.

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      prachi jain 5 years ago

      i hate reading such kind of lengthy books.....

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      haide raye 5 years ago

      i really like the poem

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      as 6 years ago


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      joe 7 years ago

      I find it ridiculous to claim "Othello shows his goodness and the desire to help Desdemona, despite him killing her."

      That astounds me! Surely if he were genuinly good, he would not have been so readily swayed by Iago and, instead of praising his wife before murdering her, would not have done so at all!

      Perhaps he was not evil, but because of his actions it appears he was not definitively good either.