Activity Overview

Othello is full of important literary elements for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, Othello is the tragic hero who leads himself and many others to their deaths.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard above, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Othello, a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Othello - Tragic Hero

HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall Othello’s jealousy becomes his downfall when he listens to Iago. He "lov'd not wisely but too well".
HubrisExcessive Pride Othello's hubris allows Iago to manipulate him. Through the seed of suspicion, Iago can convince Othello, without any proof, that Desdemona is cheating on him.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Othello kills Desdemona after he believes that Cassio has slept with her.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery Emilia exposes Iago’s plan.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided Desdemona has been smothered, Othello kills himself from grief. Iago is sent away to be tortured.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall The audience is left remorseful for the couple who was thwarted by jealousy and revenge.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Othello can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Othello that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Othello as a tragic hero.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/2] Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/3] Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed)
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Tragic Hero Rubric Template
Create a storyboard that shows how the protagonist can be considered a tragic hero using Aristotle's Characteristics
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Tragic Hero Characteristics
The six tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The explanation provided explains how the scenes depict each characteristic, and shows effective analysis.
Four or five tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and there is some attempt at analysis.
Two or three tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal.
One or fewer tragic hero characteristics are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are minimal or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is too limited or incomplete.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.
Storyboard text is difficult to understand.

How To Compare Othello With Other Tragic Heroes


Pick Another Tragic Hero

Ask the students to make a list of all the tragic heroes they have studied so far. From this list, students can pick a tragic hero they would like to compare with Othello. Teachers can also divide the class into different groups to make this a collaborative activity. Each group can then pick a different character for comparison.


Describe Othello's Traits

Talk about Othello's personality features, such as his respectability as a general, his love for Desdemona, and his propensity for jealousy. Aid students in comprehending how these characteristics influence his choices and behaviors. Similarly, students can recall the traits of their other tragic hero and use this as the basis for comparison.


Contrast Tragic Flaws

Encourage your students to contrast Othello's shortcomings with those of the other tragic heroes. Discuss how these shortcomings affect their choices and behaviors. Students might find some similarities and differences in the tragic flaws of Othello and other heroes so they can use a Venn diagram to visualize these similarities and differences.


Investigate the Social and Cultural Context

Talk about the societal and cultural settings that shape the tragic heroes' choices and deeds. Compare the cultural backgrounds of the other characters with Othello's experiences as a black man.


Discuss and Practice

Facilitate a class discussion on the takeaways from contrasting these tragic heroes to close the lesson. As an alternative, provide students assignments that allow them to explore the contrast in greater depth, such as essay prompts, group projects, or creative tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions About Othello as a Tragic Hero

What in the play makes Othello a tragic hero?

The traditional concept of a tragic hero applies to Othello. Although he is a kind and moral person, he has a deadly weakness, in this case, envy. A mix of his own deeds and outside machinations led to his demise.

What tragic flaw does Othello have?

The terrible weakness of Othello is his profound insecurity and jealousy. Iago's deceptive suggestions concerning his wife Desdemona's loyalty are readily used to mislead him, which finally causes him to distrust her and make foolish judgments.

Does Othello's ethnicity have anything to do with his tragic hero's end?

Yes, Othello's sad end is influenced by his racial identification as a Moor in a largely white society. Being an outsider makes him vulnerable to Iago's manipulation, as do his concerns over his ethnicity and social standing.

How does Othello's demise develop during the play?

Othello's demise starts with his growing mistrust of Desdemona's adultery, which is encouraged by Iago's deceptive falsehoods. His feelings of resentment become stronger, impairing his capacity to reason. This eventually leads him to kill Desdemona and commit suicide.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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