The Downfall of Othello Essay

June 19, 2022 by Essay Writer


Othello, The moor of Venice is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. The play has been considered as one of his greatest works as a poet. Sophocles is the author of Oedipus play, which has enjoyed audience and support from other scholars. The plays are similar in tragic downfall of main characters. The essay will focus in explaining why downfall of Othello was self inflicted, while that of Oedipus was work of the gods. Notably, downfall represents suffering and death of main characters and their loved ones.


In Othello, the downfall of Othello is engineered by Iago. Othello’s downfall is self inflicted, since he chooses to trust Iago over other people around him. Iago is determined to destroy relationship of Desdemona and Othello and begins by getting closer to Othello. Iago accepts bribe from Roderigo and promises him that he will succeed in destroying the love between Desdemona and Othello.

Iago plans a fight between Cassio and Brabanzio, as a way of destroying relationship of Cassio and Othello. Othello falls into Iago’s trap and sacks Cassio. Iago assumes Cassio’s position and continues his plot of destroying Othello. Iago further accuses Desdemona of having an affair with Cassio. The plot is done tactfully and succeeds in destroying Othello (Jones, 1971).

Iago demands Emilia to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, which is later planted in Cassio’s bedroom. Since Othello trusts Iago, he believes in his lies of having found Desdemona in a compromising situation with Cassio. As a matter of fact, Iago corrupts Othello’s mind when he makes him listen to a fake conversation between Cassio and Desdemona.

The downfall of Othello was self inflicted because Emilia and Iago were his employees. When Othello finds Desdemona’s planted handkerchief in Cassio’s room, he feels betrayed and becomes angry. Othello takes Desdemona to his bedroom and accuses her of having an affair with Cassio.

Othello says that illicit relationship between Desdemona and Cassio, was the reason why Desdemona had pleaded with him to reinstate Cassio’s job. Despite the fact that Desdemona denies all accusations, Othello fails to believe her. Othello kills Desdemona for having been unfaithful to him. According to Othello, Desdemona’s betrayal could only be paid for with her own life (Jones, 1971).

Death of Desdemona was the beginning of downfall of Othello. Othello contributed to his own downfall, since he accepted advice from people who worked for him. For example, Othello failed to believe his wife when she said that she was not unfaithful. On the other hand, he trusted Iago without knowing his hidden agenda.

When Emilia revealed that Desdemona’s handkerchief had been planted in Cassio’s room, Othello was devastated. Iago is accorded justice in the end, but succeeds in destroying relationship of Desdemona and Othello. Othello was to be prosecuted at Venetian State for killing Desdemona. Graziano and Lodovico attempt to take Othello to court, but he cannot bear the burden of having killed his wife.

He laments for having not listened to Desdemona before killing her. Othello curses the actions of Iago and Emilia, which have deprived him off his wife and freedom. Othello kills himself, since he blames himself for having fallen into ill plot engineered by Iago. The properties of Othello are given to Cassio who also assumes position that had been held by Othello (Bate and Rasmussen, 2009)

The downfall of Othello is evidenced by death of his wife, loss of property and his own death. Othello killed Desdemona thereby causing his own downfall. Othello murdered Desdemona because he could not forgive her betrayal. However, he failed to consider validity of accusations made by Iago.

He failed to compose his emotions and brutally murdered Desdemona. Further, action of murdering his wife can be interpreted as cruelty and ill treatment of women by society. Othello was cruel and refused to listen to pleas of his wife and killed her. He was vengeful and refused to forgive Desdemona for the alleged betrayal. Othello attempted to strike Iago after learning the truth, which showed his vengefulness and lack of composure.

After the murder of Desdemona, Othello was to be taken to Venetian State for prosecution. In this regard, his action of killing his wife would cost him his freedom. Othello became emotional and could not forgive himself for killing his wife. He killed himself because of guilt of having treated his wife brutally. His regrets of not having listened to Desdemona, further portray his irrationality. In the end, Othello destroys his own life and that of his wife.

Further loss was after his death, when his property was seized and given to Cassio. The downfall of Othello was self inflicted since he could have prevented it. For example, if he had not believed in deceitful information from Iago, he would not have killed Desdemona. On the other hand, if he had listened to his wife, he would not have killed her. Further, he would have prevented his own death and opted to go to court. If Othello had not died, he could not have lost all his property to Cassio (Bate and Rasmussen, 2009).


As opposed to Othello’s downfall, Oedipus’s downfall was works of the gods. When Oedipus was born, it was prophesied that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. The downfall of Oedipus is rooted in this prophesy as will be outlined. Notably, prophets were seen as messengers who conveyed information of gods to people.

The father of Oedipus was the king and his mother was the queen, when Oedipus was born. After the prophet said that young Oedipus would kill the king and would sleep with the Queen, his parents opted to kill him. The queen ordered a servant to kill the baby and throw him away in the forest. The servant was not strong enough and opted to abandon him in a place that was far away from home. In this regard, downfall of Oedipus that began after his birth was works of gods.

Parents of Oedipus opted to kill him so as prevent injustice, which was works of gods. The servant opted to abandon Oedipus in a place that was far away from home, as a way of preventing prophesied doom from happening. Oedipus grew up in a place that was far away from home, but gods brought him back to accomplish his mission. Oedipus unknowingly killed his father and ended up marrying his mother (Brunner, 2000).

After, Oedipus learnt that he had killed his father and married his mother he became devastated and ordered for his exile. The reason why the downfall of Oedipus was works of the gods was because he did not have control over what he had done, since he did not know his real parents.

Notably, decision to have the killer of father of Oedipus exiled was made by the gods. In this regard, Oedipus was a victim of circumstances and did not cause his downfall. He plucked out his eyes and Queen Jocasta killed herself. Oedipus obliged to decision of gods and was sent to exile, where he later died (Foster, 2003).

Polynieces and Etiocles were the sons of Oedipus and fought with each other after death of Oedipus, because they wanted to become the king. They fought and ended up killing each other. Antigone and Ismene were daughters of Oedipus. Creon was the brother of Jocasta.

Creon ordered that bodies of Polynieces and Etiocles should not to be buried in Thebes. Antigone, violated rules of Creon and went ahead to bury her brother. Creon ordered for his exhumation but Antigone buried him again. Creon ordered for arrest of Antigone, but a prophet advised that she should be released.

When Creon and Hermon went to release her, they found that Antigone had killed herself. Creon and his son, Hermon confronted each other. Hermon accidentally stabbed himself and died. Creon carried the body of his son back to the palace. Eurydice, the wife of Creon heard the news about her son and killed herself. The tragedy ended with Creon wishing for his own death (Potter, 2002).

The downfall of Oedipus was eminent and was felt by many characters. The tragedy in Oedipus of Sophocles was manipulated by gods and cannot be attributed to role played by the main character. Notably, all children of Oedipus and his family members perished in Oedipus’s downfall.

Oedipus could not have done anything to prevent his downfall. Prophesy of doom made after his birth, depicts manipulation of gods in fateful downfall of Oedipus. Despite the fact that Jocasta and her servant attempted to prevent a tragedy, downfall of Oedipus still occurred. In this regard, downfall of Oedipus can be interpreted as being inevitable and not self inflicted.

Jocasta and father of Oedipus attempted to manipulate works of gods, but failed. The servant who abandoned Oedipus for death failed to change plan of gods. Despite traumatizing experience of Oedipus, he still grew up and killed his father and slept with his mother. Notably, Oedipus was not aware that a man he had killed was his father and that he had married his mother. When he learnt of what he had done, he was helpless and plucked out his eyes before going to exile (Ian, 2007).


Othello and Oedipus are plays based on tragedy. There is a similarity in that main characters of both plays died in the end. However, the nature in which they died was different.

Further, the extent of downfall in the two plays is different. In Othello, the main character inflicted his suffering and downfall to a great extent. Othello could have prevented his downfall in many ways. Othello was the key cause of his downfall. On the other hand, Oedipus had nothing to change. His downfall had been designed by fate which is interpreted as works of gods.

As a matter of fact, many characters in Oedipus tried to prevent downfall and tragedy to a great extent. Gods were seen as being powerful and influential. For example, Oedipus obeyed gods order by going to exile. Creon respected message from gods and went to release Antigone. Downfall of Oedipus runs from time of his birth until after his death. On the other hand, downfall of Othello began after he trusted other people more than his wife and failed to control his emotions.


Bate, J., & Rasmussen, E. (2009). Othello. Basingstoke: Macmillan press.

Brunner, M. (2000). King Oedipus Retried. London: Rosenberger & Krausz publishers.

Foster, C. (2003). How to Read Literature Like a Professor. New York: Harper Collins press.

Ian, J. (2007). Sophocles: Oedipus The King. Virginia: Richer Resources Publications.

Jones, E. (1971). Othello’s Countrymen. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Potter, L. (2002). Othello: Shakespeare in performance. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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