Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What if Othello had seen a therapist?

I think some people believe in the notion of a tragic flaw. We probably all know someone who depends on this notion. Maybe an alcoholic, a perpetual cheater, let's say of the "high fidelity" sort, or someone who just can't seem to stay out of a good bar fight. And when we ask them why, Whyyy, do you continue to do this, they hang their head, maybe shake it slowly a few times for dramatic effect before looking up at us with those sad, exhausted puppy eyes (as if they are even exhausting themselves with their behavior) and say something like:
"Because it's just what I do."

A friend's boyfriend pulled out this line on me once. He was drunk (even though he had sworn to his girlfriend not to drink anymore because alcoholism ran in the family and he without fail did something he regretted each time he drank) and he passed the open door to a room I was sitting in, stumbled his way over to me, put his hands on my shoulders and said "I really want to kiss you right--right now" Did i mention this guy had cheated on his girl before?
I almost laughed (an angry laugh) and rolled my eyes (this was such old news) and asked, "why do you do this?"
and then he hung his head and did the whole above-described song and dance.
I wanted to smack that self-pitying look off his face and say "this is not a Shakespearean tragedy!"

I understand there are exceptions--some people really do have illnesses like nymphomaniacs and true, true alcoholics--but something rung non-genuine to me about this self admittance--this recognition and even articulation of what this guy was doing while he was doing it.

He had that line ready, "it's just what I do" as if I was just going to swallow it up. As if I was going to say "aaaah, this is your tragic flaw that leads to your downfall and you are a tragic hero."
NOPE! sorry.
I never thought I would bring my English Majoriness outside the classroom but, I can't help but recall the last scene in Othello when he is about to kill his wife and he says , "that i do groan with all, thou art to die." A.k.a...
"Oh baby it hurts me too to do this to you but, I gotta do it" and as we know he ends up thinking, "shoot! what have i done?"

What if he had stopped right there and said, "woah. I have issues. Desdemona, babe, I think we should take a break while I see a therapist and work some of this out."

Why do people fall back on these "tragic flaws"? Why do they choose to trip over the same stone every time?
My guess is this:
If they don't mess things up in the same way they always do then they have to--oh my god, could it really be--they would have to leave things to their natural course. They would make themselves vulnerable to something else messing things up--something unexpected, something out of their control perhaps.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your analysis on Othello comparing it to people who seem to have these flaws they know are wrong, but keep doing them anyway. I never would have thought if it that way before, but you're right, it doesn't make a person a tragic hero because "it's just what they do". Good read.