Iago stands supreme among Shakespeare’s evil characters because of his intense and subtle cruelty, perfectly combined with his exceptional powers of will and intellect. As a result of this, his motivations are unclear; however the innocent, loyal, and honest character Iago portrays to the others, does not reflect his true character. He is the ultimate puppet master. Every action is preplanned and manipulated for his audience to perceive him as this trustworthy decent man. Iago possesses such intelligence and acting ability that he forces others to act on and believe what he tells them.
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The other characters see him as what he wants them to see, and not for what he really is. The three main emotional weapons Iago uses to destroy everyone are reputation, desire and jealousy. A good reputation is the most important virtue to the characters of this play. Their good name is what keeps them in high standing in society. What family one comes from and how one uses that status permeates every facet of life. Iago uses this as a weakness. He does everything in his power to destroy the reputation of others by creating illusions and lies and sharing them with those whom would listen.
Iago was so trusted by all, that people would continuously look to him for advise and he would use these opportunities to manipulate their opinions and thoughts towards others. The importance of reputation and its usefulness is shown when Iago says, “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls. “(Othello. Act III. iii. 182-183. ) One way Iago uses others importance of reputation to destroy them is in the case of Cassio. Early on in the story, Othello, who is a Moorish general in the Venetian army has an opening for a second in command.
Although Iago wants this position desperately, Cassio is chosen. When the opportunity arises for Iago to avenge this, he does. Iago convinces Cassio , known as a responsible, loyal and trustworthy man to abandon his night watch and go out drinking. He eventually gets into a fight with another lieutenant and is discovered by Othello. When asked to explain the situation, Iago lies and tells Othello that Cassio behaves like this all of the time. Using jealousy as a weapon is what prompts Iago to plot the ultimate downfall of the characters in Othello and especially Othello himself.
Othello does not appear to be jealous early in the play, but due to Iago’s skillful and manipulative lies, Othello is confronted with emotions he does not know how to handle. Iago recanted false stories, which affected all of the characters, and the reader is never quite sure of his true motivations. Was it his own jealousy andlove for Desdemona, was it revenge against Othello and Cassio for losing out in getting the army position, or was it just being evil for it’s own sake? The affair begins with Othello and Desdemona who are madly in love with each other.
There is also a romance between Bianca and Cassio. Iago begins the chaos by creating rumors of an affair between Cassio and Desdemona who are merely good friends. Roderigo, a Venetian gentleman and acquaintance of Iago, is also in love with Desdemona . His jealousy of the love that Desdemona and Othello share leads him to help Iago to spread the rumors that ultimately destroy them all. Iago fools everyone in the play into believing that he is honest. No one suspects him of treachery, until the final act when Roderigo realizes how badly he has been tricked.
They make everyone think that Othello is a barbarian by going to see Barbantio, a Venetian senator and Desdemona’s father, in the middle of the night. They tell him to beware of Othello and to keep him away from his daughter. “Sir, you’re robbed. For shame, put on your gown! Your heart is burst. You have lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. “(Othello. Act I. i. 94-98. ) Iago turns Othello against Cassio and Desdemona yet covers it up by saying, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. “(Othello. Act III. iii. 195-196. ) Othello’s jealousy literally drives him mad and anger and hate replace his wisdom and judgement. The power of these destructive emotions leads to Desdemona’s death and Othello’s suicide The desires that kept them in love were the same emotions that destroyed them all. The lust for others lovers and the greed for others possessions and power allowed Iago to convince his listeners of what they should be seeing that they seemed to be so oblivious to.
Desdemona and Cassio are the only two true innocents of the story, in that neither was disloyal to their partners, or to anyone else. The inability to judge true from false is a human dilemma that we have all faced. In Othello’s case, this problem was fatal. Iago, the ultimate “Puppet Master” has truly manipulated the outcome of tragedy for his own selfish reasons. The play shows that the consequences of trusting someone who hides behind a mask of honesty can destroy ones soul, ones spirit, and even ones life.