This essay has a total of 1395 words and 6 pages.


The play Othello by William Shakespeare is based on an Italian story in Giraldi Cinthio's
Hecatommithi (Grolier). In Othello we encounter Iago, one of Shakespeare's most evil
characters. Iago is an officer in Othello's army and is jealous of Cassio's promotion to
Lieutenant. Through deception and appearance, we see unfolded many lies and clever
schemes. The astonishing thing about Iago is that he seems to make up his malicious
schemes as he goes along without any forethought. Noted writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge
describes Iago's plan as "motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity" (Scott 413). Iago
seizes every opportunity to further advance his plan to his advantage. Greed plays a major
role as a motive for his various schemes and lies.

Throughout the story, Iago portrays himself as a Satan figure. In many ways, Iago can
compare with Satan. Iago, like Satan, has proved himself to be a master of deception. He
lies to everyone taking great care to disguise his own thoughts. For example, in Act 1
scene 2, when he is speaking to Othello about his feelings toward Cassio, he uses very
strong language, while at the same time, he lies throughout the whole speech faking
loyalty to a fellow soldier and all the while implying that he is reluctantly holding back
the full truth: "I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth. Than it should do
offense to Michael Cassio" (I.ii.21-22). This deception impresses and convinces Othello
that his officer is a good and loyal soldier. Iago also succeeds in deceiving Cassio.
After Cassio's drunken fight, Iago counsels him to speak to Desdemona about trying to
convince Othello to reinstate him as lieutenant, all the while knowing that this will only
prove helpful to his plan of having Othello see him with Desdemona. Cassio answers him:
"You advise me well . . . Goodnight, honest Iago" (II.iii.332/340). Thus, even Cassio is
capable of being deceived by Iago. With all of this deception, it is a wonder that Iago is
not Satan himself. He even gives an account to his plan of deception, in a soliloquy, in
Act II. In comparing himself with Satan, he says:

When devils will the blackest sins put on. They do suggest at first with heavenly shows.
As I do now: for whiles this honest fool. Plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes. And
she for him pleads strongly to the Moor, I'll pour this pestilence into his ear. . .
Iago describes how Satan uses the appearance of something good to disguise the various
temptations that we know are evil. He tells how he will do the same while Cassio is
begging Desdemona to tell Othello to take him back, Iago then will start his destructive
scheme. Satan also deceives by lying and twisting the truth. When he told Eve in the
Garden of Eden "surely you will not die" (Gen.3: 4), he twisted the truth to deceive her.

Apostle John calls him the father of liars: " . . . for he is a liar, and the father of
lies" (John 8:44). As you can see, Iago and Satan both use deception to further benefit

Through deception, Iago creates the appearance of good, which is what ultimately fools the
people around him into thinking that he is loyal and honest. Being an officer is an
honorable rank. Historically, an officer carried the company's banner, which he was never
to desert. In battle, if the company's banner were threatened, all the soldiers had to
fight to defend it and also its bearer. So by tradition and definition, he had to be well
liked, brave, and trustful. Iago already has the appearance of being a good and honest man
so he has an advantage when it comes to keeping that honest look about him throughout the
story. Othello, it would seem, has fallen for this appearance when he tells Iago: "I am
bound to thee forever" (III.iii.214). Othello relates this to Iago because he trusts him.
Satan works in much the same way as Iago does. He creates something pleasant out of
something totally evil by making it appear glorious. The apostle Paul makes a comparison
between the appearance of men and Satan in II Corinthians: "For such men are false
apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder,
for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (II Cor. 11:13-14). Iago
deceitfully organizes his plan so as to appear trustworthy to everyone.

Iago also uses appearances to create deception. When Cassio had finished asking Desdemona,
in the garden, if she would talk to Othello for him, he left her presence. Iago and
Othello were standing off in the distance observing them. When Othello asks him if it was
indeed Cassio that he saw, Iago replies: "Cassio, my lord! No, sure, I cannot think it,
That he would steal away so guilty-like, Seeing you coming" (III.iii.37-39).
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