Iago The Puppetmaster





A puppet master is in complete control over his puppet. But only after years of studying and observation does this special interaction of complete control occur. The master soon speaks for the puppet, acts for the puppet, and feels for the puppet. A similar manipulative situation arises between Iago and Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello. Iago’s clever application of parallelism, rhyme, and metaphor play a key role in his devilish scheme. He wishes to manipulate Othello’s emotions; thus creating a condition satiated in malice and jealousy within the Moor.
Iago’s fiery rhetoric embellishes the reality of his groundless hatred. The sly Iago represents the very irony that encircles Othello. Appearing as an ally, Iago’s vengeful nature transforms him into the ultimate foe of Othello. Iago’s anger is initiated by not being chosen as Othello’s military lieutenant. This fuels his deceitful calling of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. “You have lost half your soul. Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!” (I.i.96-98). Iago awakens Brabantio with this metaphor of the ram and the ewe, referring to Othello and Desdemona, in order to enrage him. Othello represents the “black ram,” exhibiting a connotatively negative sense as opposed to the pure “white ewe,” Brabantio’s daughter. This metaphor instills anger in Brabantio, not because Othello is involved, but because his daughter is losing her purity. The repetition of “now” and “arise” in Iago’s cry add urgency to the matter and further alarm Brabantio. As Iago commences his scheme against Othello, he seeks the assistance of Roderigo, who is deeply in love with Desdemona. The time comes when Roderigo becomes suicidal over his unfeasible love for Desdemona. In a conversation between Roderigo and Iago, the shrewd Iago employs parallel sentence construction, ending five of his expletives with “put money in thy purse” (III.iii.383-395). Iago’s parallelism reminds Roderigo of the wealth he would gain if he joins Iago, thus morphing him from a miserable state to one of optimism and poise.
In contrast to the revitalizing of Roderigo’s emotions, Iago strives at debilitating those of Othello. Iago hints at the suspicion that Cassio and Desdemona are involved in a love affair, but he then goes on to note that he is not completely sure. This causes Othello to further contemplate upon the subject and spark even deeper jealousy. As they converse, Iago repeats, in deceit, that he loves Othello and remains loyal so that Othello will not take him to mistrust, “It were not for your quiet nor your good, nor for my manhood, honesty, and wisdom, to let you know my thoughts” (III.iii.178-180). Iago incorporates parallelism in order to strengthen his argument as he describes himself as a man of honesty and wisdom. He is stating that although he may not be completely sure of his observances, he tells them with wisdom and honesty to a close friend. This blatant lie makes Othello see Iago as a trustworthy man, which only empowers Iago’s clasp on the Moor’s emotions. Othello is unaware that he is being led down a path of unwarranted rage.
With the branches of his scheme progressing, Iago maintains a confident composure in his speech. Iago not only employs his speech tactics on others, but on himself as well in order to fortify his self-esteem. While in Cyprus, after observing Cassio and Desdemona interact, Iago states in a soliloquy, “With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio” (II.i.183-184). Here Iago thinks in metaphor to reinforce his belief and motivation in his schemes. He plans to exploit Cassio’s friendly nature towards Desdemona as a web to capture him in. According to Iago, he is the spider and Cassio is the fly. This makes Iago feel as the stronger, dominant, and eventually the victorious challenger. Iago exercises a similar, self-fortifying tactic when speaking with Othello in order to provoke self-confidence in his plan, “ [He] will as tenderly be led by the nose as asses are … hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the worlds light” (I.iii.444-447). Iago sees Othello as a donkey waiting to be led in a desired direction. The rhyming of “night” and “light” in Iago’s remark bring a feeling of