Iago The Puppetmaster Essay, Research Paper
A puppet master is in complete control over his puppet. But only after years of studying and observation does this special interaction of complete control occur. The master soon speaks for the puppet, acts for the puppet, and feels for the puppet. A similar manipulative situation arises between Iago and Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello. Iago’s clever application of parallelism, rhyme, and metaphor play a key role in his devilish scheme. He wishes to manipulate Othello’s emotions; thus creating a condition satiated in malice and jealousy within the Moor.
Iago’s fiery rhetoric embellishes the reality of his groundless hatred. The sly Iago represents the very irony that encircles Othello. Appearing as an ally, Iago’s vengeful nature transforms him into the ultimate foe of Othello. Iago’s anger is initiated by not being chosen as Othello’s military lieutenant. This fuels his deceitful calling of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. “You have lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!” (I.i.96-98). Iago awakens Brabantio with this metaphor of the ram and the ewe, referring to Othello and Desdemona, in order to enrage him. Othello represents the “black ram,” exhibiting a connotatively negative sense as opposed to the pure “white ewe,” Brabantio’s daughter. This metaphor instills anger in Brabantio, not because Othello is involved, but because his daughter is losing her purity. The repetition of “now” and “arise” in Iago’s cry add urgency to the matter and further alarm Brabantio. As Iago commences his scheme against Othello, he seeks the assistance of Roderigo, who is deeply in love with Desdemona. The time comes when Roderigo becomes suicidal over his unfeasible love for Desdemona. In a conversation between Roderigo and Iago, the shrewd Iago employs parallel sentence construction, ending five of his expletives with “put money in thy purse” (III.iii.383-395). Iago’s parallelism reminds Roderigo of the wealth he would gain if he joins Iago, thus morphing him from a miserable state to one of optimism and poise.
In contrast to the revitalizing of Roderigo’s emotions, Iago strives at debilitating those of Othello. Iago hints at the suspicion that Cassio and Desdemona are involved in a love affair, but he then goes on to note that he is not completely sure. This causes Othello to further contemplate upon the subject and spark even deeper jealousy. As they converse, Iago repeats, in deceit, that he loves Othello and remains loyal so that Othello will not take him to mistrust, “It were not for your quiet nor your good, nor for my manhood, honesty, and wisdom, to let you know my thoughts” (III.iii.178-180). Iago incorporates parallelism in order to strengthen his argument as he describes himself as a man of honesty and wisdom. He is stating that although he may not be completely sure of his observances, he tells them with wisdom and honesty to a close friend. This blatant lie makes Othello see Iago as a trustworthy man, which only empowers Iago’s clasp on the Moor’s emotions. Othello is unaware that he is being led down a path of unwarranted rage.
With the branches of his scheme progressing, Iago maintains a confident composure in his speech. Iago not only employs his speech tactics on others, but on himself as well in order to fortify his self-esteem. While in Cyprus, after observing Cassio and Desdemona interact, Iago states in a soliloquy, “With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio” (II.i.183-184). Here Iago thinks in metaphor to reinforce his belief and motivation in his schemes. He plans to exploit Cassio’s friendly nature towards Desdemona as a web to capture him in. According to Iago, he is the spider and Cassio is the fly. This makes Iago feel as the stronger, dominant, and eventually the victorious challenger. Iago exercises a similar, self-fortifying tactic when speaking with Othello in order to provoke self-confidence in his plan, “ [He] will as tenderly be led by the nose as asses are … hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the worlds light” (I.iii.444-447). Iago sees Othello as a donkey waiting to be led in a desired direction. The rhyming of “night” and “light” in Iago’s remark bring a feeling of sweetness to the plan. The deceitful villain further reinforces his confidence in his scheme while saying the following to himself, “O, you are well tuned now, but I’ll set down the pegs that make this music” (II.i.218-219). Iago refers to Othello and Desdemona’s love as the music of a string instrument that he will soon “set down.” By incorporating metaphor, Iago represents himself as the one in control of the situation; he is the one turning the pegs. By portraying his enemies as minute flies, inept donkeys, or tunable instruments, Iago makes himself appear superior. By doing so, he boosts his self-esteem and further buries himself in cruelty and envy.
The victim of Iago’s cruelty and envy is Othello, and as a result of this battle, Othello mutates from his respectable self to a wild, troubled man. Othello’s infection, from Iago’s virus of words, unravels his coherent character and clouds his perception of reality. This clouding is a result of the jealousy Iago conjures in Othello over Desdemona and Cassio. In a conversation with the Moor, Iago states the following, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on; that cuckhold lives in bliss ….” (III.iii.196-197). Here jealousy is metaphorically depicted as a monster that mocks and feeds on its meat, the meat referring to a man’s heart. The monster eats at the heart resulting in mental breakdown, and mocks the heart resulting in paranoia. Upon hearing this remark, Othello struggles to deny his jealousy by reassuring himself that Desdemona cannot be unfaithful simply due to the fact she is fair and by remembering of how Desdemona professed her love for him in public. However, upon looking deeper into the situation, one must realize that it would not be necessary for Othello to convince himself if he had no insecurity. The reverse psychology of this metaphor causes Othello to deny his jealousy, thus, resulting in the persistence of his blind rage.
The mental torture plaguing Othello is in direct correlation to his mental breakdown. Iago’s deceitful words transform Othello’s rational behavior into one of chaos. Othello tries to maintain reason against jealousy, but he cannot escape the assertions his own tormented mind creates, “Lie with her! Lie on her! … Lie with her! … Noses, ears, and lips. Is’t possible?” (IV.i.43-52). Othello’s self torment in this exclamation causes him to fall into a deep trance. This passage injects pure jealousy into the veins of the Moor through parallelism and imagery. The parallel sentence openings of “lie” perpetuate Othello into insanity envisioning Desdemona in bed with another man. The parallelism of “noses, ears, and lips” further contaminates Othello with scandalous images of Desdemona’s beauty, which a second man may be enjoying.
As Othello continues down the path of blind passion his emotions drift towards death. Othello’s mind becomes full with the genius of evil. With the plot to murder Desdemona at mind, Othello reveals his final thoughts at her bedside,
“It is the cause. It is the cause … It is the cause … [I’ll not] scar that whiter skin of hers than snow … If I quench thee … I can again thy former light restore … But once put out thy light … I know not where is that Promethean heat that can thy light relume …. (V.ii.1-13).
This farewell puts Othello at full-realization of his action. He motivates himself with the repetition of “it is the cause” while bringing himself to see Desdemona’s beauty and the grief of letting her go. Othello compares Desdemona’s beauty to the light of a candle and the vital growth of a rose. With the death of Desdemona and the revelation of the truth, Othello’s anguish fills his heart with guilt resulting in him taking his own life over the body of his wife, his friend, his love.
Othello’s Iago and Othello enter the battlefields of passion as they emotionally claw their ways through their sinister days. Iago embodies the cunning and deceptive warrior strategically mapping out his enemy, Othello, the powerful one-man army built for strength. The cunning warrior slyly waits for the opportunity to attack. He looks for that brief moment the gargantuan beast lets down his guard. With a final blow the beast is dead; for he was unaware that danger was always lurking behind him. Iago enters the emotions of Othello through his venomous words. Iago, as the deceitful warrior, delivers the final blow upon Othello through his dialect, which severs him both psychologically and physically, from his true emotions with the iniquitous knife of malice and jealousy.