Iago in Othello





In Shakespeare\'s "Othello", Iago carefully and masterfully entraps Othello into believing that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with Cassio. He does this through a series of suggestions and hesitations that entice and implant images in Othello\'s head that lead him to his demise. But what is more important is, he gives Othello the motive to murder his own innocent Desdemona, satisfying Iago\'s immense appetite for revenge.

The motive for Iago\'s devious plan is initially made clear in the first of Iago\'s three major soliloquies, in which he proclaims Othello has had an affair with his wife, Emila. "And it is thought abroad that \'twist my sheets he\'s done my office." The irony behind this line is that he then says, "I know not if\'t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety." The impression this gave me after reading the complete text was that Iago is so exceedingly paranoid and insane that he will go as far as murdering, and deluding even a General into murdering his wife!

Iago simultaneously conducts an equally devious plan to obtain Cassio\'s position as lieutenant, using Desdemona\'s prime weakness, her naivety. He disgraces Cassio by getting him drunk so that he strikes Roderigo. Othello then discharges Cassio when he says, "I love thee; but nevermore be officer of mine." How must poor Cassio have felt? To lose all he had worked for, burning gallons of mid-night oil, working up his reputation that any half-hearted human can tell he deserved. It was therefore understandable that he would fall to the mercy of Iago completely oblivious to the inevitable effects. Iago reveals his plan to the reader in his third soliloquy where he states, "His soul is so enfettered to her love, that she may make, unmake, do what she list, even as her appetite shall play the god with his weak function...And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor, I\'ll pour this pestilence into his ear, that she repeals him for her body\'s lust; And by how much she strives to do him good, she shall undo her credit with the Moor."

The first instance of this plan comes to life in the scene where Iago gets Cassio drunk, but the crafting only begins after Cassio is dismissed. With Cassio\'s reputation squandered - "O I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial," Iago subsequently hooks in Cassio by taking advantage of the fact that he is in a state where he will do anything to get his job, position and reputation back. Iago tells him to seek Desdemona to get it all back, "Our general\'s wife is now the general...She is so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition, she holds is a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested." This tells me then Iago knows Desdemona is extremely naive.

So Cassio asks Desdemona to ask Othello to take him in again. Iago implants images of Cassio and Desdemona having an affair in the mind of Othello, so the more Desdemona pleads with Othello, the more he believes Iago. And the more he refuses Desdemona because of this, the more Desdemona pleads with Othello, thereby creating an inescapable knot that never ceases to tighten around all three characters.

But for any of this to work, Iago first had to carefully build up trust from all characters. Being a master of deception, this was not difficult. All the constant declarations of love spoken so openly and as though thoughtlessly throughout the play would be enough to fool anyone, "I think you think I love you...I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness." And evidently he does deceive them thoughout the play in their words:

Othello : Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter...My friend, thy
husband, honest, honest Iago.

Cassio : Good night honest Iago...I never knew a Florentine more kind
and honest.
All the love and honesty Iago falsely imposes upon Othello and Cassio easily conjure them never to doubt the possibility that he could ever set either of them up in such a profound and disgraceful manner. The irony of course is that all the open declarations of love are