Othello: Iago’s Manipulative Nature
In life, those who may wound us most deeply are not our open rivals, however rather are those in whom we put our trust. William Shakespeare’s disaster Othello utilizes this idea to excellent level in the development of its sneaky villain, Iago. While Iago plainly feels no loyalty to even one other character in the play, he makes each feel as if he is his/her individual confidant and most reliable pal and consultant.
In addition, he continually puts himself in a dominant role, as one who knows more or is more capable than his peers, and can for that reason perform their affairs for them, or at least recommend them most appropriately on what finest to do. In these methods, Iago is able to control the lives of all those around him with ease. The other characters’ trust of Iago appears through both their actions and their words. Othello not only delegates Iago with his affairs, such as repeatedly depending on him to be a genuine witness (II. iii. 180, 220) however freely proclaims this trust, calling him “most sincere” (II. ii. 7). Eventually, it is upon Iago’s exaggerated reports that Othello, misunderstanding Iago’s treachery, bases his painfully paradoxical decision, which he announces to all those in participation, “I understand, Iago/ Thy sincerity and love doth mince this matter,/ Making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I enjoy thee;/ But never ever more be officer of mine.” (II. iii. 251-254) This declaration alone not only demonstrates how Iago’s capability to endear himself to others directly enables him to influence their choices, but it likewise demonstrates his deviousness in such influences.
Rather than straight state to Othello that Cassio ought to be dismissed from his position, Iago safeguards Cassio in a rather weak method, in order to alienate nobody while still ensuring Cassio’s dismissal, an event required to his most carefully computed plot. Despite such wrongs that Iago has, in truth, committed versus Cassio, his evident genuineness and friendliness blinds Cassio to his true nature. For instance, it is Iago’s determined amiability that persuades Cassio to consume in the top place, triggering a series of disgraces that eventually destroy him.
When Cassio repeatedly declines to drink, it is Iago’s friendly, “But one cup! I’ll consume/ For you” (II. iii. 34-35) that permits him to control and still not separate himself from the helpful Cassio. It is this capability of Iago’s to remain on good terms with Cassio that is shown most useful to him later, as Cassio accepts Iago’s suggestions of what finest to do in order to restore his reputation after his drunken brawl. In recommending Cassio, Iago continuously plays himself up as truthful, loving and unfaltering.
He declares bluntly that all his advice is simply since he is a real friend, stating “I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest/ kindne ss.” (II. iii. 330) In planting even these small recommendations, Iago makes fantastic headway in his capability to affect Cassio, shown when Cassio later on says, regarding Iago, “I never ever understood/ A Florentine more kind and sincere.” (III. i. 42-43) This statement is especially abundant in irony, taking into consideration that it was Iago’s subtle deceptiveness that first landed Cassio in difficulty.
Friendliness is not the only means, however, by which Iago wins the favor of those around him. Part of what makes him such an attractive character, both to those in the play and to the audience or reader, is his exceptionally magnetic personality. He has a perfectly sharp wit and a presentation that, while varying from flirtatious to charming to near clownish, never ever wavers from this lovely spectrum (except for his minutes of soliloquy, at which point his real wickedness becomes patent). His appeals can be seen as he greets Desdemona with a clever round of couplets upon her arrival in Cyprus. II. i. 134-193) While he is biting in his verse, it is a calculated meanness, meant to delight Desdemona and consequently win her favor. While this scene amuses both those in the scene and in the audience, it likewise allows Iago to assert himself as the dominant celebration. This position satisfies his individual desire for power as well as lends his advice to those around him the reliable pull it would otherwise lack. This dominant nature of Iago’s ends up being most obvious in his scenes with Roderigo.
In their conversations, Iago shows most clearly the characteristics that make him a remarkable villain; not only is he charming and very creative, he is likewise deeply persuasive, able to control Roderigo and control his actions while continuing to appear friendly. Iago develops this dominance over Roderigo not only by raising his own position in their relationship, but also by subtly belittling Roderigo, such as when he first presents his strategy to hurt Michael Cassio. “If thou be’st valiant (as they say base men being in love have a nobility in their natures more than is native to them), list me. (II. i. 247-249) Such obstacles to Roderigo’s character make him bound to show himself, at which point he becomes easy fodder for Iago’s controls. Roderigo is not the only character whose stability Iago difficulties. When Othello enters to see Montano and Cassio fighting, he scolds them, just to be loudly echoed by Iago. Oth. Hold for your lives! Iago. Hold, hold! Lieutenant– sir– Montano– gentlemen! Have you forgot all sense of place and responsibility? Hold! The General speaks with you. Hold, hold, for embarassment! (II. iii. 166-170)
In stating this, Iago prospers in both ingratiating himself to Othello, a condition needed in order to acquire his trust, and establishing his dominance over the other characters in the scene since of his functioning as Othello’s “right-hand man male.” In saying these few lines, Iago has actually highlighted his speed to act, his inner voice, and his high morals, and has probably pleased all those present. While Iago is extremely mindful to constantly stay friendly when those he requires are present, it is when they leave that his double-crossing nature is revealed.
In spite of all the camaraderie Iago puts on when speaking with Cassio, in his lack Iago makes no efforts at incorrect obligation. This is explained in the scene in which Montano and Iago go over Cassio behind his back and Iago lies, “‘T is evermore the prologue to his sleep./ He’ll enjoy the horologue a double set/ If drink rock not his cradle.” (II. iii. 124-126) This lie is made twice as frustrating to hear by the fact that it was Iago himself who coerced Cassio into consuming greatly, something he would not have otherwise done. Every move that Iago makes is utterly computed, every word a lie to direct others to his own ends.
This reality ends up being completely apparent only in Iago’s minutes of soliloquy, when no other characters are present to be deceived. It is throughout these times that Iago speaks his mind freely and lets the audience see that all his civilities are merely stepping stones in his quest to undo Othello. After divulging his plan in soliloquy, Iago states, “When devils will the blackest sins put on/ They do recommend at first with divine programs/ As I do now.” (II. iii. 353-354) This exactly encapsulates the nature of his manipulative powers; Iago suggests with divine programs, however is really a devil just waiting for the ideal minute.