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OTHELLO ESSAY
Iago‟s Strategic Acts of Character Manipulation

W.H. Auden once said, "There is more than meets the eye", s...
great devotion to the deed/And yet he hath given my satisfying reasons./ „Tis but a man gone.
Forth, my sword: he dies” (V...
by sarcastically saying: “And what‟s he then that says I play the villain?/ When this advice is free
I give and honest,/Pr...
of that time period were unvirtuous and unfaithful, this tips Othello over the edge. Piece by piece,
Iago wears down Othel...
Works Cited

Baker, William, and Womack, Kenneth. “The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare, 5Volume Set.” New York: Fac...
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Othello Essay about Iago

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Shakespeare's play Othello
Iago's Strategic Acts of Character Manipulation Essay
Gr 11 English

*UPDATE*
This is my original essay. Here is a link to my edited copy after my teacher edited it. http://www.slideshare.net/Puffeycream/othello-essay-edited-copy-iagos-acts-of-character-manipulation

Othello Essay about Iago

  1. 1. OTHELLO ESSAY Iago‟s Strategic Acts of Character Manipulation W.H. Auden once said, "There is more than meets the eye", suggesting that there may be a hidden or deeper meaning behind a person's initial appearance. Lies and deceits are common in society, and many individuals mask their true intentions with a veneer. In Shakespeare's play Othello, the character Iago is no different from those deceptive individuals. Behind his façade as a trustworthy ensign and friend, Iago is a multilayered, deceptive and manipulative villain, concocting chaos and causing mishaps toother characters for revenge. Iago uses his deft and astute strategic acts of manipulation to undermine each character‟s weaknesses. He exploits Roderigo‟s love for Desdemona, cajolesCassio under the guise of friendship, and toys with Othello‟s mind by playing on his self-doubt. Evidently, Iago manipulates the people around him by using their weaknesses: Roderigo‟s naiveté, Cassio‟s trusting nature, and Othello‟s insecurity, against them. First of all, Iago uses Roderigo‟s gullible and naive personality to his advantage. Roderigo‟s obsession and lust for Desdemona renders him susceptible to Iago‟s manipulation. This obsession causes him to unquestioningly believe anything Iago says in hopes of getting Desdemona. Initially, Iago dupes Roderigo of his fortune. He convinces him that the gold and jewels will be given to Desdemona as a proclamation of his love when in actuality, Iago plans to keep it for himself. Iago states: “Thus do I ever make fool my purse” (Shakespeare, I.iii. 374). Evidently, Iago takes advantage of Roderigo‟s devotion by conning him of his money. Similarly, Iago uses Roderigo once more by convincing him to kill Cassio. Although Roderigo is reluctant at first, he relents once Iago insists that this will win him Desdemona. Roderigo states: “I have no
  2. 2. great devotion to the deed/And yet he hath given my satisfying reasons./ „Tis but a man gone. Forth, my sword: he dies” (V.i. 8-10). Evidently, gullible Roderigo falls for Iago‟s mendacity and attempts to kill Cassio. Ultimately, Iago chooses to kill Roderigo.Iago mercilessly states: “I have rubbed this young quat almost to the sense,/And he grows angry/ May unfold me to himthere stand I in much peril. /No, he must die. But so, I hear him coming” (V.i. 11-23). This portrays how Iagoruthlesslytakes advantage of foolish Roderigo for his own needs and disposes him once his value is used up. Overall, Roderigo is a pawn in Iago‟s schemes, controlled and enslaved through his blind lust for Desdemona (Baker and Womack 1538). Thus, Iago exploits Roderigo‟s naiveté and obsession with Desdemona by deceiving and manipulating him in order to bring about the downfall of the other characters. Secondly, Iago capitalizes on Cassio‟s trusting nature by pretending to be his friend while clandestinely misleading him. Initially, Iago pressures Cassio to drink, getting him intoxicated to cause a fracas. As a result, Othello demotes Cassio from his high-ranking position as lieutenant. Cassio‟s reputation is of utmost importance to him, and having just been demoted exposes him to Iago‟s schemes. In fact, despite Iago being behind Cassio‟s drunken confrontation,he backstabs Cassio by telling Montano that Cassio is a drinking addict. Iago states to Montano: “Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep. He‟ll watch the horologe a double set/If drink rock not his cradle” (II.iii.115-118). Iago intentionally slanders Cassio to diminish his reputation despite appearing to be Cassio‟s friend. With this in mind, Iago further plots against Cassio by advising him with malicious intentions. He gives Cassio hope of getting his position back by telling him to plead to Othello‟s wife, Desdemona. Although, this may seem like legitimate advice to Cassio, Iago plans to use this in his ploy to bring him down. Iago appeals to Cassio‟s trusting nature: “I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness” (II.iii.309) but follows it up in his soliloquy
  3. 3. by sarcastically saying: “And what‟s he then that says I play the villain?/ When this advice is free I give and honest,/Probal to thinking and indeed the course,/ To win the Moor again?” (II.iii. 245-248).Evidently, Iago deliberately ill-advisesCassioand plans to use Cassio‟s actions to insinuate that he desires Desdemona. In a sense, Iago is the devil in disguise, preying on Cassio‟strusting nature. Just like he uses Roderigo‟s gullible nature to turn him into a pawn, Iago manages to do the same to trusting and unknowing Cassio. In short, Iago manipulatesCassio by taking advantage of his trusting nature to give him bad advice under the guise of friendship. Lastly, Iago plays on Othello‟s personal insecurities to bring about his downfall. Othello is notably an outcast, being the black man in a white society. Throughout the whole play, he is referred to as “The Moor”, with his skin colour resulting in unfavorable preset assumptions and prompting the association of savage animalistic characteristics. Even more so, his relationship with Desdemona is “in a period when such a marriage would be rare and controversial”(Baker and Womack 1534). As a result of society‟s prejudice, Othello‟s self-esteem diminishes, allowing Iago to capitalize on his insecurity to invoke the feeling of jealousy in Othello. To start off, Iago insinuates that Desdemona is unfaithful to Othello, as she prefers only people of her „type‟, a class Othello will never belong. Iago convincingly states: “As, to be bold with you,/Not to affect many proposed matches/Of her own clime, complexion, and degree,/Whereto we see in all things nature tends” (III.iii. 232-236). By the same logic, Desdemona would prefer Cassio, who is like her in age, race, and class, as opposed to Othello who is older, black and unattractive(1538). Similarly, Iago uses Desdemona‟s gender and past to convince Othelloof her infidelity. Iago states: “She did deceive her father, marrying you,/And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks,/She loved them most” (III.iii. 210-213). He alludes that Desdemona, having betrayed her father, is very likely to betray Othello. Combined with the knowledge that women
  4. 4. of that time period were unvirtuous and unfaithful, this tips Othello over the edge. Piece by piece, Iago wears down Othello‟s layers and places a heavy cloak of doubt and jealousy on him, much like a thunderous cloud over someone‟s head. Furthermore, Iago muddles with Othello‟s mind to an extent where Othello believes no one but Iago. He cocoons Othello with a coat of lies, using his doubtand jealousy to turn him against Desdemona. Othello states: “Oh, damn her, damn her!/ Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw/ To furnish me with some swift means of death/ For the fair devil. Now art thou my lieutenant” (III.iii. 482-485). Undoubtedly, Othello shapes a realm of truth from Iago‟s lies, and promotes Iago to his desired position as lieutenant. Ironically, Othello accepts Iago‟s lies and believes them to be the truth but believes Desdemona‟s truthful pleas to be a lie. In essence,Iago takes advantage of Othello‟s self-doubt to cradle him in a deceitful environment, and “dehumanizes the noble general, making him into a brute against his own wife” (1538). Thus, Iago toys with Othello‟s mind by using his insecurity against him. In closing, Iago undermines each characters weakness to succeed in his strategic schemes against them. The gullible fool Roderigo, trusting Cassio and insecure noble Moor all fall for Iago‟s wiles, illustrating his conniving nature and ability to diabolically manipulate characters to his doing. Iago is much like a spider, twisting his prey deeper while spinning his web of lies around them. All in all, Iago masterminds the downfall and deaths of many, and now he lives with the consequences of his actions and the weight of all the deaths he caused on his shoulders.
  5. 5. Works Cited Baker, William, and Womack, Kenneth. “The Facts On File Companion to Shakespeare, 5Volume Set.” New York: Facts On File, 2012. Infobase eBooks. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. Roma Gill. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Works Consulted Christofides, R. M. "Iago And Equivocation: The Seduction And Damnation Of Othello." Early Modern Literary Studies (2010): 6.Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. Feather, Jennifer. "O Blood, Blood, Blood": Violence And Identity In Shakespeare's Othello." Medieval & Renaissance Drama In England 26.(2013): 240-263. Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.
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Shakespeare's play Othello Iago's Strategic Acts of Character Manipulation Essay Gr 11 English *UPDATE* This is my original essay. Here is a link to my edited copy after my teacher edited it. http://www.slideshare.net/Puffeycream/othello-essay-edited-copy-iagos-acts-of-character-manipulation

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