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The Aspects of Iago Manipulations in Othello

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How can one be so manipulative to the ones they call friends. Do factors such as greed, money, or even jealousy contribute to the bigger picture? In the Shakespearean play Othello, Iago sets out to manipulate everyone he comes in contact with to the point where it is hard for readers to figure out why he does what he does. Because Iago is a manipulator, he manipulates the rest of the characters throughout the play by preying on and triggering their individual insecurities and doubts. What drives Iago’s jealousy? To what extent would he go to see Othello fall? Throughout the play we see Iago is driven by greed, jealousy, and power. But all these things are linked to psychopathic behaviors that will be shown through this paper.According to the article, “Iago the Psychopath,” by Fred West, it states, “Aggressive and highly impulsive like all psychopaths, Iago’s only motivation in an immature urge toward instant pleasure. Bluff and affable among his fellows, he is still unable to form lasting bonds of affection, not even with his wife. He has no real loyalties, but serves only his own ends, using people ruthlessly with no concern for their feelings.”

I completely agree with West, in the context of Iago’s inability to form lasting bonds of affection with others. We see this with Roderigo, Desdemona, Cassio, Othello and even his wife, Emilia. He uses all these for his personal gains and when he is done she destroys their lives. For example, when Iago spitefully got Cassio drunk do that he can lose his job as lieutenant. Iago humiliated Cassio, by the actions he did and destroyed his reputation. After that he still did not feel any less of himself. What does he gain by doing this? Absolutely nothing! At different moments in the play we see Iago displaying behaviors such as cold hearted ness, shallow emotions, lack of guilt and the urging desire to manipulate to other characters. In Act 3, Iago says, “I humbly do beseech you of your pardon/For too much loving you”(III.III.210-211). He says this to Othello because he is pretending to be his friend and confined in him, so Othello would not think anything of it. He plays the sympathetic towards Othello and does it well, but as a reader I knew better than to believe in his lies. He is seen as “Honest” to all the people he deceived just so that he can be the first in command. In the first Act of Othello, the readers gets introduced to Iago’s true personality and motives. As the play goes on, we see that Iago is pretending to be Othello’s honest right-hand man, but once Iago is left alone with Roderigo, he begins plotting Othello’s downfall. When he is left alone with the audience, he reveals loyalty to no one, and he admits he uses Roderigo for his money and continually hating Othello for more than just one reason. One of the reasons as to why Iago despises Othello is because Othello overlooked him for a promotion over Michael Cassio. Iago states:

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damned in a fair wife,

That never set a squadron in the field,

Nor the division of a battle knows

More than a spinster—unless the bookish theoric,

Wherein the togèd consuls can propose

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practice

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election;

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-leed and calmed

By debitor and creditor. This counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be. (I.I.18-30)

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Within this soliloquy, we can see some of the hatred Iago has towards Othello because he did not get the job as a military lieutenant. He is jealous of the fact that Othello makes all the decisions because he is in charge, and Iago thinks that Othello is unsuitable for the job. Iago claims that Cassio does not have the experience to be a lieutenant because he’s a bookworm. Any reader can see that Iago is clearly jealous of Cassio, but is this the real reason Iago sets out to destroy Othello? Or is this just an excuse? Or is this part of his psychopathic tendencies? I believe that this is just a game to him, because he wants everyone that shows any type of love, compassion, or even respect for Othello to be destroyed.

Iago’s poisonous lies are so powerful that he starts to believe what he is telling others is true. While talking to Roderigo, Iago explains why he was passed up for the promotion, and eventually provides a rumor that he heard. Iago says:

But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor,

And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets

He’s done my office. I know not if’t be true,

But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,

Will do as if for surety. (I.III. 364-368)

The rumor that Iago disclosed to Roderigo was that Othello was sleeping with his wife, Emilia. He refers to Othello as “the Moor.” Iago does not have the slightest clue about if this rumor is true or not, but he decides to continue his evil schemes against Othello. With no proof or evidence, Iago acts on a rumor, which is really crazy. Rumors make people feel doubtful, but that does not make them true; evidence does. We all have people in our lives that share the same characteristics as Iago. They lie so often that they start to believe what they say, and we question the truth from the lie, which makes it hard for a reader to believe what Iago says. We live in a world with multiple Iagos. According to the article, “‘Honest’ Iago and the Evil Nature of Words” by Dr. Francesco Ancona, he states, “We want to see Iago as evil—which he is—but we want to see all the others as innocents ‘poisoned’ by Iago’s devilry. But the truth is they are not honest. They are not innocents. And Iago’s evil is merely his ability to use the truth as a poison to turn them inside out and turn their surface beauty into pitch, the pitch that was inside all along.” One can agree to disagree with Dr. Ancona because it can be seen in both aspect, but I am one to disagree. How can one not see that the others are innocent? They were manipulated by someone they consider to be their friend, acquaintance, and even husband. I believe that they are innocent and very naive for that matter. If someone has a friend that they confide in, they would not expect their friend to be jealous or envious of them. They also would not want their friends to hurt them either. How can one justify Iago’s actions as sane and alright? He used the truth and fabricated it with different things to hurt the people close to him. Once something is fabricated it cannot be the truth! Look at how Iago continually lie to Roderigo about getting with Desdemona, knowing she is married to Othello. What does he gain by doing this? Money, jewels, and gifts that is not even for him. Iago wants everyone around him to be seen as bad people, while he acts concern and play the innocent card. Once a liar always a liar and Iago is one of the best ones I’ve come across. Readers such as myself start to question Iago because we start to learn that Iago is a habitual liar that believes in his lies and wants everyone around him to believe in them also. He finds the flaws and insecurities in other characters and eventually uses them against these characters to get what he wants. Iago’s lies send others over the edge with consequences, and the craziest thing about him is that he is the one who is sympathetic and always there for them to confide in. Roderigo is one of the main characters that throughout the play confides in Iago the most. Iago knows that Roderigo is controlled by his emotions and is not really a logical thinker. To be frankly honest, Roderigo is gullible and because of that Iago plays him. Iago uses Roderigo and Roderigo’s money for his own personal games to harm Othello. One of the examples was when Iago lies to Roderigo about getting married to Desdemona. Iago says “Plague him with flies” (I.I.69). Iago uses this to manipulate Roderigo into going to Desdemona’s father and telling him that his daughter is married to the Moor, Othello. All of this is part of Iago’s plan; he wants Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, to dislike the Moor because Othello did not make Iago his lieutenant. Once again, we see how hurt Iago is about not getting the promotion, and that he is willing to do anything necessary for Othello to suffer. Later we find out that Roderigo was told by Iago to tell Brabantio that Othello and Desdemona are married so that Brabantio might make them divorce or break them up. This way Roderigo will have a chance with Desdemona and express his love to her. Iago says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse” (I.III.361). Iago convinces Roderigo that money can buy him anything, even Desdemona’s love. Roderigo believes him, blinded by his love for Desdemona, and sells his land to get money for gifts. Roderigo is continually deceived by Iago whom he trusted so dearly. Iago goes on to manipulate Desdemona and Othello’s relationship. Iago knows how valuable a particular handkerchief is to their marriage. The handkerchief is a symbol of their love because it was the first gift Desdemona received from Othello, and she keeps it on her constantly. It is also seen as marital fidelity because Othello told Desdemona the story of how his mother used it to keep his father faithful to her. It represents Othello’s love and faithfulness to Desdemona. Iago uses his wife Emilia to take the handkerchief, and since it is in his possession, he is able to use it as evidence of her infidelity. In Act 4 when Iago is left alone with Othello, he starts playing mind games with him forcing him to imagine Desdemona and Cassio in bed together because he knows how much Othello values the handkerchief. Iago then brings up the lost handkerchief again and makes a claim that Cassio slept with Desdemona, but he has no proof of it. Iago says:

What if I had said I had seen him do you wrong?

Or heard him say—as knaves be such abroad,

Who having, by their own importunate suit,

Or voluntary dotage of some mistress,

Convincèd or supplied them, cannot choose

But they must blab— (IV.I.23-28).

This is a perfect example of how Iago manipulates his wife into getting his hands on Othello and Desdemona’s valuable possession, so that he can uuseit against them. Why would Iago bring speculation to Othello, if he is not trying to destroy his relationship with his wife or even destroy Othello himself. What if I saw this? What if i said that? All because of a promotion that he did not get. This is not way to treat someone. Then Iago goes on to say “With her, on her, what you will (IV.I.32). He is trying everything that he can to wrap Othello around his hand to trap him and execute his plan, which is all a part of his psychopathic behavior. Having no heart or sympathy for the pain he causes to others. Iago’s motivation is never revealed in the play, but after closely analyzing his character one can conclude that his motivation is based off of greed, money, and power, which are all linked to his psychopathic behaviors. All cares about is himself! He targets people around him insecurities to bring others to their downfall. What if Iago got the promotion? Would he still be the same way? I would say yes. He wants to be in charge of everything and everyone under his command. He only listens to use what has been told to him in a harmful way. Would you want someone like that to be in charge of things? No.

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The Aspects of Iago Manipulations in Othello. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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