Character Analysis Of Othello | “An Honorable Murderer”

Othello, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tragedy “Othello,” is a complex character whose complexity lies in his combination of greatness and weakness. This character analysis provides a detailed examination of Othello’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and the factors that lead to his tragic downfall.

Strengths and Achievements of Othello

Othello is portrayed as a distinguished and respected General in the Venetian Defence Force. His skills in war, intelligence, and commanding presence earn him high regard from his troops and superiors. Despite being a foreigner from Africa, Othello has risen to a prominent position due to his military excellence. His ability to inspire and lead is evident when the Duke and Senate of Venice turn to him to defend Cyprus against an impending threat, highlighting his valor and capability.

How “Othello” depicts his strengths and achievements:

“Her father loved me; oft invited me;

Still questioned me the story of my life,

From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,

That I have passed. I ran it through, even from my

boyish days,

To the very moment that he bade me tell it;

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth ‘scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence

And portance in my travels’ history.”

(Act I, Scene III)

 Social Insecurity and Isolation

Othello’s success on the battlefield contrasts sharply with his social insecurities in Venetian society. As an outsider, Othello struggles with his identity and acceptance. His race sets him apart, making him feel perpetually alienated despite his high status. This sense of otherness is emphasized by the constant reference to him as “The Moor,” which underscores his racial difference and the societal prejudice he faces. This external perception exacerbates his internal insecurities, particularly concerning his marriage to Desdemona.

 Othello’s Love and Vulnerability

Othello’s love for Desdemona is both his greatest strength and his most profound vulnerability. He idolizes her, viewing their union as the pinnacle of his life. However, his inexperience with love and his deep-seated insecurities make him susceptible to manipulation. Othello’s intense love for Desdemona provides him with a sense of order and peace, but it also creates a fear of losing her, which Iago exploits. This fear is captured in Othello’s words, “But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again,” illustrating how integral Desdemona is to his mental stability.

Here is how “Othello” that depicts his love and vulnerability.

“If it were now to die,

‘Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,

My soul hath her content so absolute

That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.”

(Act II, Scene I)

Manipulation and Jealousy

Iago’s manipulations prey on Othello’s insecurities and his predisposition to jealousy. Othello’s belief in Desdemona’s fidelity wavers under Iago’s deceitful suggestions, leading him to doubt her loyalty without concrete evidence. His perception of Cassio as a more suitable match for Desdemona further fuels his jealousy. Othello’s inability to reconcile his love for Desdemona with his growing suspicion illustrates his tragic flaw: his vulnerability to doubt and jealousy.

Tragic Heroism and Downfall

Othello embodies the characteristics of a tragic hero as defined by Aristotle: he is noble yet imperfect, his downfall precipitated by his own decisions and actions. Othello’s tragic flaw is his susceptibility to jealousy and his poor judgment, which Iago skillfully manipulates. His transformation from a loving and honorable husband to a jealous and abusive one highlights the depth of his internal conflict and the extent of Iago’s influence. Despite his greatness, Othello’s inability to trust Desdemona and his impulsive decisions lead to catastrophic consequences.

Othello’s Realization of Guilt

Othello’s realization of his mistake comes too late. The guilt and horror of having killed the innocent Desdemona overwhelm him, leading to his ultimate act of taking responsibility: his suicide. In his final moments, Othello acknowledges the gravity of his actions and the irreversible damage he has caused. This acknowledgment and his subsequent death underscore his tragic heroism, as he faces the consequences of his actions with the same decisiveness that once made him a revered general.

One poignant example of this realization is found in Act V, Scene II, shortly before Othello takes his own life. He reflects on the irreversible damage he has caused and the weight of his guilt, acknowledging the innocence of Desdemona:

“Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.

Put out the light, and then put out the light:

If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,

I can again thy former light restore,

Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,

Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature,

I know not where is that Promethean heat

That can thy light relume. When I have pluck’d the rose,

I cannot give it vital growth again.

It must needs wither: I’ll smell it on the tree.”

(Act V, Scene II)


Othello’s character arc in Shakespeare’s play is a journey from triumph to tragedy, driven by his internal conflicts and external manipulations. His insecurities and tragic flaws overshadowed his noble qualities and significant achievements. Shakespeare crafts Othello as a tragic hero whose downfall is a result of both his vulnerabilities and his poor judgment, making his story a poignant exploration of the human condition and the destructive power of jealousy and insecurity.