Othello Essay, Research Paper
A SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY
Shrewd and devious behaviour, especially for his own benefit is perpetuated by the manipulative and evil Iago throughout the Shakespearean tragedy Othello. Iago tampers with the truth and falsifies events in an attempt to secure power and seek revenge. In his quest for power no one is safe from his devious deeds. His lies and manipulative tales ultimately prove destructive to the other characters in the play. Iago appears to be without conscience, continuing to fabricate stories and initiate rumors. Iago is cynical; obsessed with his own personal gain. His manipulative and spiteful behaviour leads to the thirst for revenge, the betrayal of friendships, and the destruction of love.
The hunger and quest for revenge, the result of jealousy leads to the downfall of a number of Shakespearean characters in the play, Othello. Iago is extremely manipulative and power oriented, yearning to be in control and exercise authority. When news of Cassio’s promotion reaches him he is overcome with jealousy and vows to seek the ultimate revenge – Cassio’s dismissal. Iago rants that he will “have our Michael Cassio on the hip, abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb – For I fear Cassio with my night-cap
too” (37). At the dual celebration for Desdemona’s and Othello’s marriage and the end of the Turkish threat to Cyprus, Iago sets his plan in motion by persuading Cassio to indulge in too many cups of wine. Iago insists that Cassio have “but one cup” (39) “that would fain have measure to the health of black Othello” (39). With Cassio in this vulnerable state, Iago hopes a feud between Roderigo and Cassio will develop. His plan for revenge meets with great success. A fight occurs between Cassio and Montano. Othello hears the sudden commotion and immediately leaves his quarters and appears at the town square to strip Cassio of his noble title. Othello makes a point of if to assure Cassio that he does “love thee, but nevermore be officer of mine” (45). Cassio’s reputation is shattered as a result of the manipulative efforts of Iago. Once again, Iago’s unscrupulous behaviour and shrewd planning allows his master plan to develop.
Friendship involves appreciating, acknowledging and honouring another human being. It is obvious that Iago has no concept of the true meaning of friendship as he continually toys with Roderigo’s vulnerability and weaknesses, using him as a pawn in his manipulative schemes. He realizes that Roderigo is infatuated with Desdemona and consequently he plants the seed of jealousy in Roderigo’s mind by telling him that “Cassio loves Desdemona, I do well believe’t: That she loves him, ’tis apt and of great credit” (37). This knowledge infuriates Roderigo and compels him to support Iago in his attempts to seek revenge against Cassio, the newly appointed lieutenant. Roderigo assures Iago that he “will do this, if you can bring it to any opportunity” (36). Iago uses his friend’s jealousy of Cassio as a ploy in an effort to secure his own needs. A feud between Roderigo and Cassio ensues and Iago’s shrewd plan to have Cassio dismissed comes into fruition. Iago’s plan succeeds because he deceives his friend Roderigo into believing that his aggressive behaviour will lead to a romantic relationship with Desdemona, when in reality his actions lead to Iago’s ultimate goal – the dismissal of Cassio.
Even the most beautiful and loving relationships can be shattered by the destructive forces of manipulation. Othello, the most significant character in the play is easily manipulated and influenced by the evil Iago. Initially Iago acts as if he respects and honours Othello, creating an environment of false trust. Othello believes in Iago and is unable to regard him as disloyal or dishonest. Having built up a relationship of false trust Iago is then able to continue to lie and deceive Othello. Throughout the entire play Othello is oblivious to Iago’s tactics and is completely unsuspecting and unaware of Iago’s manipulative attempts. Iago takes full advantage of Othello’s strict adherence to his code of honour and his need for an unblemished reputation. Iago easily convinces Othello of his ex- lieutenant, Cassio’s disloyalty. Iago convinces Othello that “Cassio did some little wrong to him, as men in rage strike those that wish them best” (45). The manipulative Iago also provokes Othello’s jealous nature by planting a seed of suspicion in Othello’s mind – the suspicion that his beloved wife Desdemona is involved in an intimate affair with his ex- lieutenant Cassio. Iago warns Othello to “look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio. Wear your eye Thus: not jealous, nor secure” (59). Iago constantly preys on Othello’s humanness and his emotions, fabricating such lies as Desdemona never felt love for Othello and how Desdemona ’s handkerchief had been found in lieutenant Cassio’s quarters. Upon receiving this false information an enraged Othello demands that Iago, the conniving villain “be sure thou prove my love a whore; Be sure of it: give me ocular proof” (64). Deceitful Iago then asks Othello if he has ever noticed his fair Desdemona with “a handkerchief spotted with strawberries” (67) in her hand. Iago informs Othello that “but such a handkerchief – I am sure of it was your wife’s – did I today see Cassio wipe his beard with” (67). Othello accepts the proof at face value and believes the scandalous affair to be true. Once again Iago has been successful in deceiving and manipulating others. His false accusations have lead to the destruction of the love and trust between Othello and Desdemona. Othello’s jealousy and his need to defend his honour and his reputation reduces him to a man out of control. He becomes a broken man, hateful and jealous, killing his innocent wife and subsequently taking his own life. Once Othello is informed by Emilia about the truth of Iago’s horrific scheme, he feels that “I kissed thee, I killed thee: no way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss” (119).
In retrospect and in spite of the fact that Shakespeare’s works have been composed several centuries ago, is it his intent to expose flaws in the human character? Is Shakespeare attempting to deliver a message through his works? In the play, Othello, Iago can be described as being green with envy however, would it not be more appropriate to characterize him as greed with envy? Iago’s greed for power and status can only be satisfied through the manipulation and deception of others without regret or remorse of the impact on the unsuspecting. Indeed, is the message Shakespeare attempts to disclose albeit a futile attempt, actually a warning, a warning “to beware of the pat on the back, that just might hold you back” (anonymous) or the” smiling faces that tell lies and of the evils that lurk within” (anonymous), a warning to heed several centuries ago and a message to heed today? Iago’s manipulation destroys many people’s lives throughout the play Othello. It is distressful to witness Iago’s horrific schemes as they come to fruition without regard or remorse for the lives he attempts to sabotage. Manipulation is a terrifying and unscrupulous tactic which forces people to undertake deeds they would otherwise consider devious. Manipulation destroys friendships, creates power struggles and ruins even the strongest bonds of true love. It is devastating to realize that had the truth been spoken or acknowledged in the play, Othello, many lives and reputations could have been spared. Today society often fails to recognize that the truth is critical to the success of every relationship. It is evident that deceit and lies may corrupt many relationships and that without the truth there is no foundation for trust and true bonding. People must be more prudent about their decision making and their manipulation of others; it is imperative to consider the detrimental and emotional trauma created by such decisions, as well the trust and respect they sacrifice as a result of such behaviour. Society needs to celebrate the truth in people’s lives .