Essay, Research Paper: Othello And Iago

Shakespeare: Othello

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"I am not what I am." What is Iago? -- as distinct from what he
pretends to be -- and what are his motives? In Shakespeare's, Othello, the
reader is presented the classic battle between the deceitful forces of evil and
the innocence of good. It are these forces of evil that ultimately lead to the
breakdown of Othello, a noble venetian moor, well-known by the people of Venice
as a honourable soldier and a worthy leader. Othello's breakdown results in the
muder of his wife Desdemona. Desdemona is representative of the good in nature.
Good can be defined as forgiving, honest, innocent and unsuspecting. The evil
contained within Othello is by no means magical or mythical yet is represented
by the character Iago. Iago is cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting. He
uses these traits to his advantage by slowly planning his own triumph while
watching the demise of others. It is this that is Iago's motivation. The
ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil. Not only is it in his own nature
of evil that he suceeds but also in the weaknesses of the other characters. Iago
uses the weaknesses of Othello, specifically jealousy and his devotion to things
as they seem, to conquer his opposite in Desdemona. From the start of the play,
Iago's scheming ability is shown when he convinces Roderigo to tell about
Othello and Desdemonda's elopement to Desdemona's father, Brabantio.
Confidentally Iago continues his plot successfully, making fools of others, and
himself being rewarded. Except Roderigo, no one is aware of Iago's plans. This
is because Iago pretends to be an honest man loyal to his superiors. The fact
that Othello himself views Iago as trustworthy and honest gives the evil within
Iago a perfect unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity to get to
Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse. He creates
the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio in order to stir
the jealousy within Othello. It is this jealousy and the ignorance of Othello
that lead to the downfall of Desdemona; the one truely good natured character in
the play. As the play opens we are immediately introduced to the hostility of
Iago against Othello. Iago has been appointed the position of servant to Othello
instead of the more prestigous position of lieutenant. Michael Cassio has been
appointed this position. Iago feels betrayed because he considers him self more
qualified than Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Iago then foreshadows his plans
for Othello to Roderigo, "O, sir, content you. / I follow him to serve my
turn upon him (Act I, Scene I)". Iago already realizes that Othello thinks
about him as an honest man. Roderigo is used by Iago as an apprentence and
someone to do his "dirty" work. Roderigo is naively unsuspecting. As
the play shifts from Venice to Cyprus there is an interesting contrast. Venice,
a respectful and honourable town is overshadowed by the war torn villages of
Cyprus. It could be said that Venice represents good or specfically Desdemona
and that Cyprus represents evil in Iago. Desdemona has been taken from her
peacefullness and brought onto the grounds of evil. Iago commits his largest
acts of deceit in Cyprus, fittingly considering the atmosphere. Ironically, the
venetians feel the Turks are their only enemy while in fact Iago is in hindsight
the one man who destroys their stable state. Act II Scene III shows Iago's
willing ability to manipulate characters in the play. Iago convinces Montano to
inform Othello of Cassio's weakness for alchohol hoping this would rouse
disatisfaction by Othello. Iago when forced to tell the truth against another
character does so very suspiciously. He pretends not to offend Cassio when
telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved in, but Iago secretly wants the
worst to become of Cassio's situation without seeming responsible. Cassio is
relieved of his duty as lieutenant. With Cassio no longer in the position of
lieutenant, this gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively interact with
and manipulate Othello. By controlling Othello, Iago would essentially control
Desdemona. To reach Desdemona directly is unforseeable for Iago considering that
Othello is superior to him. It is for this reason that Iago decides to exploit
Othello. If Iago can turn Othello against his own wife he will have defeated his
opposition. Act III Scene III, is very important because it is the point in the
play where Iago begins to establish his manipulation of Othello. Cassio feels
that it is necessary to seek the help of Desdemona in order to regain his
position of lieutenant and therefore meets with her to discuss this possibility.
Iago and Othello enter the scene just after Cassio leaves, and Iago witfully
trys to make it look like Cassio left because he does not want to be seen in the
courtship of Desdemona. Iago sarcastically remarks : Cassio, my lord? No, sure,
I cannot think it That he would steal away so guilty-like, Seeing your coming.
(Act III, Scene III) When Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to
strengthen Othello's views of honesty and trust towards him by saying
ironically, "Men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would
they might seem none! " (Act III, Scene III). This cleverness by Iago works
upon one of the tragic flaws of Othello. Othello has a tendency to take
eveything he sees and everything he is told at face value without questioning
the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would pretend to be something they
are not, while in fact that is the exact thing he represents. Finally, after
hearing the exploits of Iago and witnessing the events surrounding Cassio,
Othello for the first time is in conflict about what is the truth. This is the
first stage of Iago's scheme to control Othello. As Emilia becomes suspicious
about Othello's development of jealousy, Desdemona defends her husband by
blaming herself for any harm done. This once again shows Desdemona's compassion
and willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband. Othello begins to show his
difficulty in maintaining his composure : Well, my good lady. O, hardness to
dissemble -- How do you, Desdemona? (Act III, Scene IV) Act IV, Scene I is a
continuation of the anxiety and indifference Othello is under going. Iago takes
advantage of this by being blunt with Othello about his wife Desdemona. Iago
suggests that she is having sexual relations with other men, possibly Cassio,
and continues on as if nothing has happened. This suggestions put Othello into a
state of such emotional turmoil that he is lost in a trance. Iago's control over
Othello is so strong now that he convinces him to consider getting rid of
Desdemona and even suggests methods of killing her. Iago, so proud of his
accomplishments of underhandedness : Work on. My med'cine works! Thus credulous
fools are caught, And many worthy and chaste dames even thus, All guiltless,
meet reproach. (Act IV, Scene I) Othello in this state commits his first act of
violence against Desdemona by hitting her. This as a result of Desdemona's
mention of Cassio. This shows now Othello's other tragic flaw. He made himself
susceptable to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the demise of
others. By his actions Othello has isolated himself from everyone except Iago.
This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to complete his course of action. Iago
does not tolerate any interference in his plans, and he first murders Roderigo
before he can dispell the evil that Iago represents. Finally, Othello, so full
of the lies told to him by Iago murders his wife. Desdemona, representative of
goodness and heaven as a whole blames her death on herself and not Othello.
Iago's wife, Emilia, becomes the ultimate undoing of Iago. After revealing
Iago's plot to Othello, Iago kills her. This is yet another vicious act to show
the true evil Iago represents. Othello finally realizes after being fooled into
murder : I look down towards his feet -- but that's a fable If that thou be'st a
devil, I cannot kill thee. (Act V, Scene II) Iago says "I bleed, sir, but
not killed", this is the final statement by Iago himself that truely shows
his belief in evil and that he truely thinks he is the devil. That is the
destruction of all that is good. Hell over heaven and black over white. Iago, as
a representation of evil, has one major motivational factor that leads him to
lie, cheat, and commit crimes on other characters. This motivation is the
destruction of all that is good and the rise of evil. This contrast is
represented between Iago and Desdemona. Desdemona is described frequently by
other characters as "she is divine, the grace of heaven" (Act II,
Scene I), while Iago in contrast is described as hellish after his plot is
uncovered. Iago uses the other characters in the play to work specifically
towards his goal. In this way, he can maintain his supposed unknowingness about
the events going on and still work his scheming ways. Iago's schemes however at
times seem to work unrealistically well which may or may not be a case of
witchcraft or magic. Iago's major mistake, ironically, is that he trusted his
wife Emilia and found that she was not as trustworthy as he thought. Although
not completely victorious at the conclusion of the play, Iago does successfully
eliminate the one character representative of heaven, innocence, and honesty.
Yet "remains the censure of this hellish villian" (Act V, Scene II).
Finally, everything Iago pretended to be led to his demise : Honesty, Innocence,
and Love.
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