In literature, one of the most commonly identified roles is the tragic hero. Whether it is in classic Elizabethan works or in modern twentieth century works, the traits of the tragic hero abound. How did this role become a force in literature? The credit goes to none other than Shakespeare and his classic work Othello. Othello embodies the very essence of what has come to be known as the tragic hero.
To often is the tragic hero looked upon as a stereotype. The bulging, brawny, gutsy action star has been glamorized by the media for decades. The role is often tainted with an onslaught of women, sex, drugs and violence. However, the tragic hero in its quintessence was formulated from layers of emotional duress and heroic traits.
Othello carries all the traits that have come to be identified with the aforementioned tragic hero. He has despicable rivals, respect from those around him, an important position, a romantic interest, strength and courage, and most importantly a tragic flaw. These traits are not only resounding themes throughout the play, but they also have set a precedent in literature for many years to come.
In order for the heroism a tragic hero embodies to be expressed, he must have an adversarial situation to challenge him. In order to have an adversarial situation, he must have an adversary or several adversaries. In order to stress the good qualities of the hero, these adversaries must be as despicable and as deceitful as possible. Othello is certainly not lacking in this area.
One of his pathetic enemies is Rodrigo. Rodrigo embodies many opposite traits of Othello's. Instead of being courageous, he is cowardly. Instead of taking care of his own business, he gets someone else to do it for him. This man is Iago. He is definitely cast in a contrasting light to our hero, Othello (Douthat n. pag.).
Iago, Othello's more obvious villain also embodies many contrasts to Othello, but in a more caustic nature.