To what extent is Iago’s jealousy responsible for the downfall of Othello?
The extent that Iago’s jealousy is to blame for Othello’s downfall is open to question. Aristotle states that the protagonist in a tragedy, such as Othello, is solely responsible for the unfolding catastrophe. Aristotle states that there must be something in the character which causes a downfall, where they recognise their error of judgement. This is known as “the tragic flaw“, or “hamartia”. As Othello dramatically stabs himself, he states “Of one that loved wisely, but too well;/of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought/perplexed in the extreme”, he takes responsibility for his own downfall. Aristotle’s theory reinforces the idea that Othello causes his own downfall.
However it is difficult to see how Othello’s self-destruction would have occurred without the manipulations of Iago. Neville Coghill says “Psychologically Iago is a slighted man, powerfully possessed by hatred against a master who (as he thinks) has kept him down and by envy for a man he despises who has been promoted over him”. Coghill believes that Iago, rather than exploiting Othello’s “tragic flaw”, is actually responsible for it. This contradicts Aristotle’s theory.
In the case of this play, jealousy is Othello‘s “tragic flaw“. Jealousy “the green eyed monster” is clearly an emotion at the root of “Othello’s” tragic downfall but, also, at the root of Iago’s plotting and scheming. It is debatable as to whether it is Iago’s scheming and jealous betrayals, or Othello’s “fatal flaw” which is ultimately to blame for the protagonist’s downfall. What cannot be ignored is that, without the use of clever manipulation, a result of his envy and Othello’s naivety, the drama of the catastrophe would have been reduced.
As the play opens, we are immediately drawn to Iago’s hostility towards Othello. Othello appoints Cassio over Iago to the more prestigious position of lieutenant. Iago feels displaced and betrayed...