Comparing Othello And Canterbury Tales Essay Research

Comparing Othello And Canterbury Tales Essay, Research Paper

A Case Study In Human Nature

The use of manipulation and misleading for personal gain has

proved to be successful for many people throughout history.

Famous poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, and famous play writer, William

Shakespeare, illustrate characters who possess these manipulating

qualities in their personalities. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Pardoner,

from The Canterbury Tales, and William Shakespeare’s Iago, from

Othello, are good examples deceiving characters. These literary

figures manipulating techniques are very effective on the other

characters in Chaucer’s and Shakespeare’s works.

Iago’s main motivation for his manipulation is his hatred of

the main character, Othello. Iago’s reasons for his hatred of

Othello begin with the fact that in choosing a lieutenant,

Othello passed over Iago in favor of Cassio, but Iago may have

hated Othello even before that. Roderigo opens the play by

exclaiming to Iago, “Tush! never tell me? I take it much unkindly

that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were

thine, shouldst know of this” (1.1.1-3). The “this” is the

elopement of Othello and Desdemona. Roderigo has been giving Iago

money to help him into Desdemona’s favor, and he assumes that

Iago knew about the elopement. Iago didn’t know, which must have

been embarrassing. He says about Desdemona, “Now I do love her

too; Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure I stand

accountant for as great a sin, but partly led to diet my revenge”

(2.1.291-294). He wants revenge for his own suspicion that

Othello has gone to bed with Emilia. It’s eating at him and he

won’t be satisfied “Till I am evened with him, wife for wife. Or

failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so

strong that judgment cannot cure” (2.1.299-302). The phrase

“evened with him, wife for wife,” seems to mean that he has some

notion that he might have sex with Desdemona, but it’s not the

sex that’s important. Othello must feel that same horrible

jealousy that Iago feels.

Iago has a very effective way with words. When Desdemona,

Iago, and Iago’s wife, Emilia, arrive in Cyprus, Cassio welcomes

Emilia with a kiss, then says to Iago, “Let it not gall your

patience, good Iago, That I extend my manners. ‘Tis my breeding

That gives me this bold show of courtesy” (2.1.97-99). Cassio is

making a big point of what a charmer he is, but Iago shoots him

down by saying, “Sir, would she give you so much of her lips as

of her tongue she oft bestows on me, you would have enough”

(2.1.100-102). He’s saying that if Emilia kissed Cassio as much

as she nags Iago, Cassio would have more than enough kissing.

This apparently casual devaluation of Emilia and her kisses is a

deception; a little later we learn that Iago is intensely jealous

and suspects Cassio of having an affair with Emilia. Also, Iago

convinces Cassio that the best way to get his job back is to

appeal to Desdemona, then sends him off. Alone on stage, Iago

asks us why we think he’s a villain, since his advice to Cassio

is free and “honest,” and after all he is called “honest Iago.”

Answering his own question, he comments, “When devils will the

blackest sins put on, They do suggest at first with heavenly

shows, as I do now.” (2.3.351-353). Iago knows that he is a

devilish hypocrite, but he seems to be getting a kick out of it.

Much like Shakespeare’s, Iago, Geoffrey Chaucer created a

devious and deceptive character by the name of the Pardoner. The

Pardoner is strictly “In it for the money.” He sells phony relics

to gullible villagers. He convinces these people that these

“relics” are of important religious value. Like he says, “Then I

bring out my long glass jars, crammed full of rags and bones;

these are relics–as they all suppose.” (p.339-341, lines 20-21).

He tells his stories of how he has deceived people into buying

his relics. He tells the story of a metal shoulder bone from a

holy Jew’s sheep and how if it is washed in any well, the

livestock would be cured from eating a worm or getting stung by

one if it drank from the well. The Pardoner is not at all ashamed

of what he does to innocent people. He says, “I don’t want to

imitate any of the apostles; I want to have money, wool, cheese,

and wheat, even if it is given by the poorest page, or the

poorest widow in a village, although her children die of

starvation. No! I will drink liquor of the vine and have a jolly

wench in every town.” (p.345, lines 119-126).

The Pardoner’s tale is a very good example of his greed and

selfishness. In the Pardoner’s tale, three friends begin a

journey in order to murder Death. On their journey, though, an

old man leads them to a great deal of treasure. At this point,

all three of the friends in the tale display a greed similar to

the Pardoner’s. The three friends decide that someone should

bring bread and wine for a celebration. As the youngest of the

friends leaves to go buy wine, the other two greedily plot to

kill him so they can split the treasure only two ways. Even the

youngest decides to “put it in his mind to buy poison with which

he might kill his two companions”. The greed, which is evident in

the character of the Pardoner, is also clearly seen in the tale.

Another trait that is displayed by the Pardoner and a

character in his tale is hypocrisy. Although the Pardoner is

extremely greedy, he continues to try and teach that “Avarice is

the root of all evil”. The characters in his tale display great

hypocrisy as well. As the tale begins, the friends all act very

trustworthy and faithful towards all of their friends. They make

a decision to risk their lives while trying to slay their

friend’s murderer. As they talk about their challenge, they

pledge “to live and die each of them for the other, as if he were

his own blood brother”. At the end of the tale, the “brothers”

begin to reveal their true nature. They all turn on each other in

an attempt to steal the treasure for themselves. All of the

loyalty, which they had pledged, was simply a lie and no

faithfulness remained. While the two older “brothers” plotted to

kill the younger brother, the younger “brother” plotted “to kill

them both and never to repent”(p.363, line 522). Thus, these

so-called faithful “brothers” display their true ruthlessness and

reveal their hypocrisy in relation to the Pardoner’s character.

It is easy to see the similarities between the pardoner and

Iago. They both deceive people into thinking things that will

benefit their own personal gain. Their misleading inquiries are

important to the plots of the stories; it keeps it interesting

and suspenseful and it is obviously very successful.


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