– college paper on Othello
Legendary battles between heroes and villains rumble through the pages of all forms of literature. For centuries, authors have scribbled down their depictions of the feud between light and dark. The most common notion forms a brave handsome warrior that defends all good, and lets evil take the face of an ugly hunched over monster. In Shakespeare’s Othello, however, the outward appearance of the characters did not reveal their roles with such ease. Only at the end of the play did everyone understand who his or her friends and enemies were. The devilish Iago fooled an elite group of rich men, rulers, and soldiers with mere words. He accomplished this great two-faced deception by brilliant manipulation fueled by anger.
Feeling spurned by Othello with Cassio’s advancement, Iago swells with jealousy admitting to Roderigo that he does “…hate the Moor.” Iago is insulted by a “mere prattle without practice” being placed in the position he desired. However, instead of exploding outwardly and spoiling his revenge, Iago suppresses the anger to feed his destructive desires. Against Roderigo’s advice to leave Othello’s service, Iago opts to stay close to Othello in a range where more severe damage is possible.
Through asides and monologues, Shakespeare illuminates the thought processes Iago works through to ensnare his victims’ “…body and soul”. The evil genius breaks down each person’s basic psyche, designs a multifaceted schematic, and watches as men destroy themselves. The flawless timing alone reveals a powerful mind at work. Specific words placed at the most particular moment form Iago’s fatal weapon. For example, after applying a substantial amount of “abuse” to Othello’s ear, Iago questions Cassio about Bianca, the prostitute. Thinking that Desdemona is the subject of the flippant sexual discussion that takes place, Othello’s deception is complete. Not only does Iago’s plan include multiple victims, but multiple outcomes, also. Whether Cassio kills Roderigo, Roderigo kills Cassio, or they both kill each other, all endings benefit Iago one way or another. Such strategic prowess compliments the brain of this twisted seducer.
“I am not what I am,” Iago accurately states to Roderigo as he sets up the outline for his schemes. Being everything to everybody becomes Iago’s perpetual task. Othello’s source of truth, Roderigo’s hired delivery service, and Cassio’s elbow-nudging drinking buddy are all masks that Iago wears. As the truth-bearer, he acts as though he speaks to Othello with honest opinions based on solid fact. The mortally trusting Othello refers to his Ancient as “Honest Iago” and ironically assumes that Iago loves him. When making his “fool” his “purse”, Iago presents himself as a loving friend to Roderigo, but holds back the truth about Desdemona’s gifts. After many of words of seemingly unbiased advice, Iago coaxes Cassio into indulging in wine, for which he has “very poor and unhappy brains.” After getting drunk, fighting, and in turn earning demotion, Cassio is convinced to go to Desdemona in petition for his former rank. “With a little a web as…” flirtatious behavior common to Cassio’s personality, Iago claims he will “…ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.” All three characters saw the sheep’s clothing, but did not recognize the wolf underneath until it was too late.
Blinded to all morals by his relentless anger, Iago ingeniously manifested several alternate realities around his helpless subjects. Besides Emily, his wife, exposing his treachery in the end, Iago achieved his revenge exactly as he desired. Shakespeare’s rendition of darkness, appearing as light attacking light, forms a merciless villain with socially catastrophic powers.