Othello Essay, Research Paper
Othello is considered to be the most tragic of Shakespeare s plays. Shakespeare plays out a tale of a self-delusional villain that has declared revenge on Othello. Othello is the main character of the play, a general of the army with the status and respect of everyone, even though his race is African and Africans are usually looked down on. For Iago, our delusional viollan, to carry out his plan of revenge, he must infiltrate Othello s trust more so then he already has and he does this by discrediting Cassio, who Othello has named lieutenant. Cassio s actual role in the play is merely to be stuck in the cross-fire of Iago s anger, collateral damage. Then after using Roderigo, a clueless suitor to the beautiful Desdemona, Cassio is discredited as lieutenant and Iago named it in his place. With Othello now trusting Iago more then his own wife, Iago trickles in the ideas that Desdemona may not be loyal. Fair Desdemona is considered to be the most beautiful woman in Venice, and she snuck away to marry Othello because he is black. Desdemona only plays into Iago s tricks because she is just so innocent; quote . The tragedy ends with a death toll of 4 people. But the motivating factors as to why Iago went to such great lengths to produce such an intricate plan, are not readily shown, and are left unclear for the reader to interpret. But by analyzing the various motives that Iago might have, there are in fact underlying issues that lead Iago to his decision of the utmost revenge. By observing that Iago uses his charm and wit to manipulate many characters in this play, it is obvious that the revenge on Othello has expanded into a sort of sick twisted game that ties in with Iago s jealousy for Othello s marriage with Desdemona.
While Iago s hatred for Othello is obvious, why he subjects these other characters to suffering is unclear to us. These people just seem to be in the way, small pieces in the larger picture: Roderigo is just a pawn and a purse, Emilia Iago s wife is a tool to obtain things, and Cassio plays his part without knowing it. Cassio happens to have a drinking problem that Iago uses to his advantage, which causes Cassio to be discredited from lieutenancy. There does not seem to be an obvious reason why Desdemona had to be involved in Iago s plan. There are other ways to discredit Cassio and have Othello die, but since Iago has such strong feelings against them, he went to the extra, more risky lengths to not only discredit Cassio and have Othello die, but to discredit and kill both of them, as well as Emilia, Desdemona and Roderigo. Luckily Cassio is at least saved.
What drove Iago to those extra lengths to build this elaborate plan started with the rumors that Othello slept with Iago s wife. Iago uses that as an excuse to tell us why he is doing all this, it seems shallow and stupid to go to these great lengths on the basis of some rumors he heard. Then again, it doesn t sound that preposterous because that is the exact reason Othello murders Desdemona. Whether this is a flaw in both Iago and Othello, or whether it is a flaw in society that one must trust whatever is heard or risk being talked about, is unclear. What is clear, is that there is some very obvious jealousy issues encircling Iago s opinion of Othello. Look at it this way, Othello has married the most beautiful and sought after women in Venice, he is the general of the army, he may have done Iago s office with Emilia, and finally he names Cassio lieutenant instead of Iago. Iago may be feeling a number of things, ranging from serious betrayal from not being made lieutenant, to extreme suspicion about Othello sleeping with Emilia, so extremely he becomes convinced without any further evidence. These deeper issues surface in a several instances, one especially when he divulges in a soloquiy (where the actor is only talking to the audience) that he is jealous of Othello because he has Desdemona. There is also an aspect that has not been discussed, and that is of when Othello does make Iago his lieutenant, and Iago feels extreme amounts of emotion yet those emotions are hard to distinguish. He is overcome with some kind of emotion, but whether it is actual happiness from being made lieutenant or whether it is tears from laughter instead we are left to figure out for ourselves. Since Iago needs to be lieutenant for his plan to work perfectly, that leads us to believe that those emotions are more of a realization that his plan is almost finished, rather then feelings of having made it to lieutenant. If we assume that these are feelings more associated with the completion of Iago s mission rather then happiness from being made a lieutenant, we can see how twisted Iago really is and how his motivation might not even be anything we are aware of, but in fact underlying insecurities mixed with rumors fired on by jealousy.
Although its not always obvious while reading the play, there is a certain parallel between Iago and Othello. The total basis for Iago s anger may not just be the rumors that Othello slept with Emilia. That is definitely a factor because it is the only reason Iago tells us face to face, but the connection between Iago basing his whole mission on the rumor, is ironic considering Othello bases his murdering of Desdemona on the rumor that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio. There might be an underlying message from Shakespeare telling us to never trust one single opinion from someone; never to trust a rumor without there being just cause and evidence. But Othello is not a character that jumps to conclusions either. In fact any other man situated as Othello was would have been disturbed by Iago’s communications, and I add that many men would have been made wildly jealous. But up to this point, where Iago is dismissed, Othello, I must maintain, does not show jealousy. His confidence is shaken, he is confused and deeply troubled, he even feels horror; but he is not yet jealous in the proper sense of that word . With that quote in mind, it is easy to see how Othello was the one pulling the curtain in front of his own eyes to hide what was going on: that his friend was deceiving him. The bare possibility that his friend is deliberately deceiving him — though such a deception would be a thing so monstrously wicked that he can scarcely conceive it credible — is a kind of hope . Since Othello now has this hope, he demands endlessly of Iago to produce some kind of proof to prove that what he says is true. He is asking something that should be impossible, and technically is because Desdemona never cheated on Othello. But because of Othello s persistence it could be looked at that Iago was in fact forced to place Desdemona s handkerchief in Cassio s possession. On the other hand, whether it was Iago s idea about the handkerchief originally or after Othello demanded proof, it fit perfectly into Iago s plan and essentially was the nail on the coffin for Othello to believe every word Iago says. Yet, while this was the deciding moment that Cassio and Desdemona should be killed, it was also the reason that Iago is eventually found out and exposed. Unfortunately the damage has been done and Othello has already killed Desdemona and then himself, leaving Iago s mission to seem more of a suicide mission where he always knew he would be caught. Iago s killing of Emilia at the last second was merely a If I am going down, someone is coming with me mentality.
While there can be all kinds of complicated theories of what Iago s motivation in the play is, ranging from jealousy to anger to a feeling of betrayal, there is one final motivation, that of sport. Numerous times Iago expresses how this whole ordeal is a sport (quotes). This ties in with his, on the whole, jolly manner, and how it almost seems as if he is having fun. When dealing with Roderigo, he has fun, laughing at how gullible the young love driven fool is and playing off of his foolishness. Iago is in fact a new sort of character for Shakespeare, and in this evil ensign Shakespeare created the first self-delusional villain in literature .
Sometimes in the play it almost seems as if Iago believes his own lies, which can bring up a whole new list of motivations. If he is self-delusional, he could be thinking anything. But what Iago hopes to achieve in this whole ordeal is never quite clear to the audience or Iago himself. In an essay by Geoffrey Bent, the writer explains how in fact Iago was originally just trying to annoy Othello and maybe disrupt his marriage, but with the sudden success, he finds the situation escalating to murder and the only reason he has pursued it as far as he did, was for sport. That adds an almost psychotic element to Iago because no sane person would have fun pitting people against each other and causing murder.
Yet even after determining what motivated Iago and why, there is no just reason that he should have gone to the point Iago went to. Not one single of the motivating factors that could have caused him to cause the deaths of 4 people, but it seems that together they may have been the driving force behind Iago. After analyzing all Iago s various motivations and attitudes towards other characters, it is clear that there is not one motivating factor but in reality a combination of jealousy, self-delusion and anger.