Compositionally, William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello is considered his best work. The action is structured, cause-and-effect relationships are logical, and events are consistent. This is a real tragedy of the writer, excluding the presence of a magical element and describing the real world. The characters of the heroes are authentic and represent people without magical traits. William Shakespeare became the author of the ideal work for the era in which he created his masterpieces. The novelty of the play of 1604 consisted of the absence of an appeal to ancient and medieval motives. Additionally, the protagonist of the story, Othello, was the center of attention since his character’s development was curious to observe. Even though Othello was seen as a strong leader, he demonstrated his weaknesses while facing intricate obstacles.
Primarily, this paper will dwell on Othello’s major character appearance features and traits in order to understand his personality. The image of the Moor Othello embodies the best features of the commander of the 16th century – courage, determination, strategic thinking, and strength. Outwardly, Othello fully corresponds to these masculine qualities of character (Whitney & Packer, 2002). He is tall and muscular with a strong-willed facial expression and expressive eyes, which make his face attractive. Although, according to Shakespeare’s play, Othello the Moor cannot be called beautiful at all. Othello is a very kind and trusting person at heart. He used to trust people, so he could not expose the slander about his beloved Desdemona spread by the envious and careerist Iago. Credulity caused the death of Othello and his beautiful wife.
Othello feels like an outsider in Venice since he represents another race. Thus, society does not accept him despite Desdemona’s all-encompassing love. The imaginary betrayal of his wife in the eyes of the hero is a confirmation that he does not fit into the world he is trying to be a part of. Iago convinces the boss that love for the beauty of noble origin does not make Othello a full member of society. His exploits remain unnoticed, and life at risk means nothing to others.
As mentioned, Othello was brilliant as a commander, and his leadership qualities did not remain unnoticed. He can be claimed as a decent leader since his most outstanding trait is confidence. Even though Othello is a part of the minority group in society, his inner belief in himself makes the Duke and the government accept him (George, 2015). They grant faith and hope in his true warrior and fighter abilities. This can be seen in the beginning, when Iago and Othello discuss Brabantio, mentioning his almighty power. However, Othello is not much concerned about it and says: “Let [Brabantio] do his spite” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 15). It proves the protagonist’s influential status in Venice and makes it clear that Othello is under the government’s protection because of his military leadership.
What is more, Othello can be claimed leader since his high societal position helps him escape the charges brought by Brabantio. Even though his power may seem unlimited, it provokes Iago’s hatred. However, Othello manages to soothe the situation due to his influential temper and explain what causes Iago’s abhorrence (George, 2015). Having the inner ability to communicate, he makes Iago contemplate his disloyalty to him (Poulson, 2005). Othello demonstrated such talent since a good leader needs to assure people of doing anything.
Another strength of Othello as a leader is his trust in other characters. This trait is vividly observed when Othello attends the Duke’s meeting and hears Brabantio accusing him of using dark magic to attract Desdemona. The protagonist trusts the Duke, who can ensure the judgment’s fairness. In order to prove his non-involvement, Othello says: “Send for the lady [Desdemona] to the Sagittary / And let her speak for me before her father” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 115). These lines prove that the main character is deeply convinced that Desdemona trusts him as much as he trusts her (Poulson, 2005). Othello is even ready to risk his life because he believes she utterly supports him. As a result of the trial, the Duke allocates his justice while Desdemona testifies.
Nonetheless, Othello’s deep trust in people is his major weakness. For instance, he entrusts Iago with his possessions and affairs with Desdemona, which takes a toll on their relationship. His willingness to hand Desdemona over to Iago is an act of blindness. His confidant says: “The Moor is of a free and open nature, / That men but honest seem to be so, / And will be led by the nose” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 48). By uttering this and using his blind trust, Iago plans to betray him. It is vividly observed in Cyprus, where he makes poisonous comments about Desdemona and attempts to make Othello believe in her infidelity by mentioning that she was in bed with Cassio. Having planted such thoughts in Othello’s mind, Iago decides to create problems in their marriage and torments him even more. Hence, the protagonist’s trusting nature no longer serves him and causes the success of Iago’s malicious plan.
Moving on, another leadership quality of Othello is a good reputation. Even at birth, the main character possessed public admiration and prestige. In the first lines of the poem, Othello claims: “I fetch my life and being / From men of royal siege” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 20). This saying proves that he has a royal background which builds him up as a man of status and manner. In addition, Desdemona and the Duke describe him as an authoritative person. Since other people speak of him as a person of honor and status, it proves his decent reputation in Venice and endows him with power and influence (Whitney & Packer, 2002). In one scene, Othello decides that Desdemona will accompany him on a trip to Cyprus; however, she asks her not to distract him from his duties. In case that were to occur, she warns her: “And all indign and base adversities. / Make head against my estimation” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 275). It implies that despite his love and respect for her, duties and honor were primarily crucial to the protagonist. This is a true quality of a leader – they are ready to sacrifice the most important things to sustain their positions.
On the other hand, reputation is also Othello’s weak spot, as well as trust. Knowing that if his responsibilities are shrunk, Othello will tarnish his status (Whitney & Packer, 2002). Iago is aware of Othello’s desire to maintain his image and wants to manipulate him. Iago utters: “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, / Is the immediate jewel of their souls” (Bloom & Shakespeare, 2005, p. 245). Although Iago sounds polite, his intention is to demonstrate that honor holds great importance to him.
It is also necessary to dwell on the other weaknesses of Othello to determine how they interfered with his leadership. In his article, Mark Stein (2005) focuses on discussing the inner character within Othello’s mind and an external nature at a different level. The author argues that jealousy can be particularly problematic for leaders. As an example of Othello, he has lost his mental capacity to examine and explore issues without immediately engaging in unthinking action, which represents one of the main characters and impacts as a leader. Othello’s passionate and jealous nature was a serious threat to his rational thinking (Whitney & Packer, 2002). Thus, he was easy to fall into anger and other destroying emotion.
Chris Poulson brilliantly describes Othello’s emotional constituent as a weakness. In the article, the author analyzes some cases from Othello’s play and is consistent with the theory of specific emotions, determining how these destructive emotions lead to various reactions at the organizational level (Poulson, 2005). Othello does not notice Iago’s disappointment at being promoted to lieutenant. Thus, Othello made mistakes in the management of servals, experiencing emotional problems, jealousy, and misplaced trust, which led to the tragedy (George, 2015). However, this is a lesson for managers who rely on only one source of information, especially a dissonant one, and worry about the reaction of their supporters.
Considering Othello’s yielding to emotions, he was easy to manipulate, as with Iago. His fellow intentionally deceives him, gossips about his wife, and generally wishes him a bad fortune by gaining his trust from him. His insecurities led him to believe that Desdemona could cheat on him. It should be stated that Othello was a real hero to his people, but he was never a hero of his own life because of the poor decisions he made (Whitney & Packer, 2002). In general, while given the right directions as a commander, Othello gets lost in his relationship with friends and family.
In conclusion, being a true leader, Othello could not realize that his leadership traits served him both right and wrong. His trust in people and reputation were the cornerstone of success and failure. In general, leadership is a complex phenomenon that demands specific traits from a person who desires to become influential. Even if leaders possess some characteristics that make them powerful, they should be careful with trust and emotions. The latter can cause many troubles if not controlled enough. All in all, Othello was a great leader regardless of the flaws and temptations he succumbed to.
Bloom, H., & Shakespeare, W. (2005). Othello. Yale University Press.
George, B. (2015). Discover your true north. Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Poulson, C. (2005). “I am not what I am” – Destructive emotions in an organizational hierarchy: The case of Othello and Iago. Research on Emotion in Organizations, 1, 211–240. Web.
Stein, M. (2005). The Othello conundrum: The inner contagion of leadership. Organization Studies, 26(9), 1405–1419. Web.
Whitney, J., & Packer, T. (2002). Power plays: Shakespeare’s lessons in leadership and management. Simon and Schuster.