Iago is the master of deception and no one cares to notice it because he is known to them as honest Iago. "Good night honest Iago" (Shakespeare 2.3.325). He uses his trust that everyone has for him against them to plant ideas in their heads. He will do anything to get what he wants and he does not care who he hurts as long as he gets what he wants. Iago uses his expert judgment of character to use and betray his fellow friend, Roderigo. He is jealous that Cassio is Lieutenant and plots against him because he believes that he should be Lieutenant. Othello believes and trusts only Iago, and Iago uses that trust against so in the end it will benefit him and only him. Iago uses manipulation to betray Roderigo, Cassio and Othello so that it will benefit himself. Iago knows that Roderigo is gullible so he uses that to his advantage. He finds out early that Roderigo is in love with Desdemona and he is quick to use that to his advantage. Iago uses mind control to convince Roderigo that Othello is not good for Desdemona. Roderigo uses this information to call upon Brabantio and explain to him that he will be better off for her. "If she be in her chamber or your house, Let loose on me the justice of the state" (1.1.139). Roderigo convinces Brabantio that Othello is not good enough for Desdemona which causes hatred for Othello from Brabantio. Iago also uses his friend Roderigo to do his dirty work. Iago says to Othello that he will take Cassio out of the picture but instead he convinces Roderigo to do it. Iago plants thoughts into Roderigo's head that Cassio and Desdemona are fond of each other which causes him to go after Cassio. Iago does not care who dies because either way it will fit into his plan. "Now, whether he kill Cassio, Or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, Every way makes my gain" (5.1.12). Iago uses his manipulation on a gullible Roderigo to do his dirty work and when Roderigo is not needed anymore, Iago betrays him by killing him. Iago did not like Cassio at all because Othello gives him the Lieutenant position instead of him. Iago feels that he deserves that position more than Cassio and he uses the trust Cassio has for him against him. Iago does his homework and finds out that Cassio is an alcoholic. Iago uses this information to get Cassio drunk and he gets into a fight with Montano. Cassio wounds Montano and when Othello asks Iago what happened, Iago says that Cassio had to much to drink and ended up attacking Montano. This works out for Iago because Cassio lost his position of Lieutenant. "Cassio, I love thee, But nevermore be officer of mine" (2.3.243). Being the genius that he is, Iago uses Cassio's own faults against him.
Iago seems to get along with Othello but deep down he despises him. Othello is the cause for Iago's actions because Iago believes that he slept with his wife, Emilia. He also despises him because did not appoint him Lieutenant. Iago knows that Othello will listen to him because he is his right hand man. So with ease, Iago gives Othello hints that he thinks Desdemona and Cassio are more than friends. Iago uses the fact that the handkerchief given to Desdemona by Othello, which means a lot to her is now in the hands of Othello. "And did you see the handkerchief. What is that mine? And to see how he prizes the foolish woman your wife: she gave it him, and he hath giv'n it his whore' (4.1.172). Iago knows that Othello is going insane so he tells Othello that the only way to get even with his wife is to kill her. Othello believes this is the right thing to do because he is listening to the words of honest Iago. Iago gets into Othello's thoughts by telling him to kill his own wife. Iago even tells Othello how to kill her and Othello does not realize that Iago is taking advantage of him. "Do it not with poison: strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated" (4.1.206). Iago believes that Othello slept with his wife, so he gets revenge on him by putting false accusations in his mind that his wife is a strumpet. He also breaks the friendship between Othello and Cassio so he can get what he wants, the Lieutenant's position. Roderigo, Cassio and Othello were all victims of Iago's manipulations. These manipulations causes Iago to get whatever he desires. Iago takes advantage of his friend Roderigo by making him do his dirty work. Roderigo does do his dirty work because Iago plants ideas into his head that once Othello and Cassio are dead, then he will get his love, Desdemona. Cassio is very loyal to Othello but Iago changes that by taking his looks and young age against him. He makes Othello think that Desdemona will like Cassio better because he is younger and good looking. Iago does not want Othello to live because he hates him. He believes that Othello slept with his wife, Emilia and is jealous of him. He also hates Othello because he gives Cassio the Lieutenant's spot instead of his right hand man, Iago. With all his evil thoughts, it does not end up the way he had planned.
An Analysis of Iago's Manipulation of Each of the Characters in Othello
The essay describes in detail Iago's manipulation of Cassio, Desdemona, Emilia, Roderigo, and Othello.
From beginning to end Iago moves the characters of Othello as if they were chessmen. He uses their individual aspirations and passions to motivate them to whatever devious plan he desires. His adroit manipulation of those characters range from convincing Roderigo to serve Cassio another glass of wine, to leading Othello to the conclusion that only by killing Desdemona could he save himself and mankind from her treacherous acts of infidelity. However, in each case Iago doesn?t have to push very hard because his suggested actions either seem harmless resolutions to each character?s woes or take advantage of character flaws. In each case, because he does not have to push very hard, he is able to maintain an air of apathy while promoting his ultimate malevolent goals: ?I am not what I am?(I, i, 71). In this manner, Iago manipulates Cassio, Desdemona, Emilia, Roderigo, and Othello to play their separate pieces in the puzzle that will ultimately mean Desdemona?s death.
Iago takes advantage of both Cassio?s yearning for his old position of lieutenant as well as Desdemona?s good-hearted nature in order create the image that Desdemona is being unfaithful with him. Cassio loses his lieutenancy do to his drunkenness and brawl with Roderigo and Montano: ?I love thee, but nevermore be lieutenant of mine? (II,iii,264-265). Dejected, Iago turns to Iago, a self-proclaimed, ?honest man?(II,iii,285), who happens to be nearby. Iago has succeeded in reducing Cassio to a pitiful state; a state in which he will be highly suggestible due to his desperation. Iago first comforts Cassio asserting that, ?Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving?(II, iii, 287-9), which is ironic since Iago has a reputation as an honest man when he deceives routinely, while Cassio is now considered a wild drunk when in reality he is Othello?s dearest ally. Iago states that, ?Our general?s wife is now the general?(II, iii, 333-4), and that with her as his petitioner his relationship with Othello, ?shall grow stronger than it was before?(II, iii, 344-5). In this scene, Iago masterfully utilizes Cassio?s low tolerance for alcohol, to rob him of his position. He then plants the idea of using Desdemona as his supplicant, on the newly impressionable Cassio. And therein lies Iago?s mastery; he reduces his chessmen to such a state that a mere seemingly well-meaning whisper on his part coaxes them toward his action.
Iago?s manipulation of Desdemona occurs through Cassio. He exploits Desdemona?s natural proclivity to help others, toward his dark purpose; he ?turn[s] her virtue into pitch?(II, iii, 380). Iago is a satanic figure who endeavors to pervert that which is pure and good. Through his suggestion to Cassio, Iago can now be certain that Cassio will entreat Desdemona to petition for him with Othello. Cassio does implore Desdemona for he aid and predictably she responds that, ?Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do all my abilities in thy behalf.?(III, iii, 1-2), and thus Iago?s plan succeeds. Iago will use their interaction to further extend his evil plot. Iago?s suggestions to Othello will cause him to construe Desdemona?s pleas for Cassio, as pleas for her paramour. Each time she suggests, ?[Cassio?s] present reconciliation take?(III, iii, 51), ?she shall undo her credit with [Othello]?(II, iii, 379), further. Thus Iago manipulates Desdemona?s wholesome urge into entreaties who fall as proofs of infidelity on Othello?s ear.
Iago also manipulates the undeserving devotion that Emilia shows him. We learn from Emilia at the end of the play that Iago, ?begged [her] to steal?(V, ii, 272), the handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona: ?that handkerchief?I found by fortune, and did give me husband?(V, ii, 267-9). Iago?s manipulation of his wife is tragic; she clearly sees his ?wayward?(III, iii, 336) nature, and yet she remains obedient even though she knows that it is her mistress?s, ?first remembrance of the Moor?(III, iii, 335). Like Desdemona?s good nature, Iago exploits Emilia?s devotion toward his malicious goals. He then, ?lose[s] this napkin?in Cassio's lodging?, where it will serve as the ?ocular proof? that Othello demanded before concluding that Desdemona was unfaithful. Thus, as Iago was able to control Desdemona through her character flaw of good will, he is similarly able to bend Emilia to his purpose by exploiting her spousal devotion.
In Roderigo?s case, Iago manipulates both his obtuseness, as well as his desperate love for Desdemona. By exploiting Roderigo?s dimwitted nature, Iago is able to attain any monetary resources he wishes. Roderigo?s mental function is also inhibited by his love for Desdemona, which shames him in its strength: ?I confess it is my shame to be so fond, but it is no in my virtue to amend it?. Thus, with the promise that Desdemona might be swayed to divorce Othello and marry Roderigo, Iago procures whatever funds he wishes: ?Thus do I ever make my fool my purse?(I, iii, 426). Roderigo desperately desires Desdemona and is unable to reason that no amount of money will help the situation. Iago seizes upon Roderigo?s inability to draw this conclusion, and slowly bleeds Roderigo?s purse. By simply stating to Roderigo that, ?[Desdemona?s] eye must be fed?(II, i, 246), and that ?Desdemona is directly in love with [Cassio] ?(II, i, 240), he convinces his impressionable cretin. Thus Roderigo simply accepts Iago?s unlikely theory, given Desdemona?s exceedingly chaste nature, without a shred of proof. Iago is a puppeteer that knows just how to play on Roderigo?s weaknesses to produce the desired affect. Iago. Iago?s recognition of Roderigo?s weakness in his love for Desdemona is clear: ?my sick fool Roderigo, whom love hath turn'd almost the wrong side out?(II, iii, 52-54). Iago?s manipulation of Roderigo is indeed perfect; the more he fails in securing Desdemona?s love for Roderigo, the more desperate for it Roderigo becomes. Given that Roderigo threatened to, ?incontinently drown [him]self?(I, iii, 347), his desperation for Desdemona?s love at this point in the play has reached a feverish pitch. In this incapacitated mental state Roderigo accepts Iago?s suggestion that he kill Cassio: ?I have no great devotion to the deed; and yet he hath given me satisfying reasons?(V, i, . Yet in the audience we wonder, what ?satisfying reasons?? Iago has offered only wild conjecture and no proof. Yet, Iago successfully manipulates Roderigo to his purposes, as he and Cassio fight, leaving only Cassio for Iago to deal with.
Finally, Iago?s most destructive manipulation of the characters of Othello, is his manipulation of Othello himself. Othello?s insecurities about his race are what Iago uses to bend him to his will. In his discourse to the Duke, Othello?s love seems elevated and pure. It is filled with religious words such as ?pilgrimage? and ?prayer? which demonstrate both the strength and sanctity of their love. Yet, by the end of the play Iago has so poisoned Othello?s soul that he is convinced that, ?[Desdemona] must die, else she'll betray more men?(V, ii, 6). How did this radical change occur? It is Iago?s gentle prodding and toying with Othello. First, Iago uses Othello?s blackness to create doubt in his mind: ?Whereto we see in all things nature tends. Foh! One may smell in such a will most rank, Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural?(III, iii, 271-273). Also, Iago takes advantage of Othello?s alienation from Venice to create further doubt mentioning that for the women of Venice, ?their best conscience is not to leave undone, but keep unknown?. Othello?s insecurities, Iago knows, will bolster his argument. Desdemona?s very choosing of Othello indicates that there is something wrong with her. Knowing these insecurities reside in the Othello?s mind, Iago begins dropping subtle hints such as, ?I like not that?(III, iii, 37), that he knows will plaque Othello?s mind. Iago immediately repents saying, ?I cannot think it that he would steal away so guiltylike?(III, iii, 41-42), yet he is masterfully planted a seed of doubt in Othello?s mind. As this seed takes root in Othello?s mind Iago need only supply, ?trifles light as air?, which Othello demands from Iago: ?Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore?(III, iii, 411). Iago, then supplies him with the ?ocular proof? that he demands, ?I know not that: but such a handkerchief,-- I am sure it was your wife's,--did I today see Cassio wipe his beard with?(III, iii, 496-8). And thus, with this sole shred of proof, that Othello does not even see himself, Iago has completely bent Othello to his purpose: ?O, blood, blood, blood!?(III, iii, 512). Thus, because Iago is able to exploit Othello?s insecurities about being black in Venice, he is able to easily manipulate him using only hints and thin proofs.
Put out the light, and then put out the light
In conclusion, Iago harnesses individual character flaws and situations throughout the play, to serve his own demonic purpose. Indeed, Iago is a satanic character whose manipulations often involve perverting that which is good and moral into a pitifully depraved heap. This theme reverberates throughout the play. Only as the setting moves from Venice to Cyprus, order to chaos, is Iago able to blacken each character?s soul or appearance. In this manner, Shakespeare warns of the corruptibility of society when it veers from the order of a dominant patriarchy.
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