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The Power of the Sword and the Power of the Word with Iago and Othello

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The power of word means the power of manipulating someone just with words, the power which affects people on their mind and not they corpse, we can say is something that hit your brain and causes confusions on your brain and not to your body. On the other side is the power of sword which is a physical power, it affects your body and just that, the only malfunctions that it can causes are at the body scale. In “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice” both of these powers appear and are represented by Iago and Othello. We are going to discuss about which one is more powerful. In that Shakespearean tragedy, I think it is obvious that the power of word, which is Iago’s power, won against the power of sword, which is Othello’s power. As illustrated by the final when Othello killed Desdemona and after that committed suicide.

What is exactly the power of the word and how it can be greater than de power of the sword? First, we need to make clear the differences between the word and the sword, and we are not talking about de “s” which is added at the beginning of the word “word” and now we have “sword”. We are going to talk about each one and how they appear in Othello. The power of word is represented by Iago, but in some situations by Othello too. Iago used it to manipulate Othello by saying many lies, he creates a completely fake story about how Desdemona cheated Othello with his captain, Cassio. Iago was very careful about each word which he said to Othello and planned every detail. Thanks to Othello’s trust and naivety, he believes Iago. These lies went deep in Othello’s mind and made a way in changing Othello’s behavior towards Desdemona. Iago with his power killed both Desdemona and Othello without any weapons, just using his word correctly. Othello is different from Iago from this point of view, the power of words, Othello used the power of word to conquer Desdemona, he told her about his brave actions and a lot of stories from his battles, just words were enough to take over Desdemona’s hearth and loyalty. However, in the Shakespearean tragedy, Othello does not represent the word; he plays the role of the power of the sword. He is a great fighter, a brave man who really knows how to manipulate a sword, an admirable military strategist, but these qualities and skills are not valid in society. We can say that in the society he is a sword among the words, he is an outsider not just literally, because he is “the moor”, but metaphorically too because he cannot adapt in the society. From beginning, the rank and the roles of Othello and Iago are clearly: “OTHELLO, a noble Moor in the service of the Venetian state. IAGO, his ancient.” Even if Iago is inferior towards Othello, in the end his power won against Othello indicating the superiority of the word in comparison with a sword.

Anyway there are some contextual details that we need to make things clear. For the power of word to win it is needed some agreement, because the words have no power if the person who you are talking to does not want to listen you or does not have any trust in you. In a conflict between two persons, we can agree that the power of sword has more influence and is more important because it depends on the trust and attention of the other person. When we are talking about life or death, generally speaking, both powers have the same strength.” The sword can kill a man, but the word can kill a kingdom “but “Would the word have been able to kill a kingdom without the sword to do it for him?” (Ali Zufer – “Is a sword stronger than a word?” ; Answered Sep 17, 2018 ; 30/01/2019 I guess the answer is no, the word and the sword are complementary powers, “men die upon the swords, but they die for words”( Murphy Barrett – “Is a sword stronger than a word?”; Answered Sep 17, 2018 ; 30/01/2019 We need both kings and soldiers in a nation. The swords will rust if there are no words and the words will not change anything without swords.

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In the Shakespearean tragedy, the power of word won because of Othello’s mistake. Due to Othello’s incapability to adapt in society, Iago takes the advantage of Othello’s weakness and manipulate him. Othello trusted his friend more than his wife; he behaved in society like he behaved in war.

Iago shows his power not just with Othello, he took the advantage words anyone. He manipulated Roderigo using his feelings about Desdemona, he made promises after promises and in the end he killed Roderigo. He manipulated Cassio, Desdemona and Emilia doing what he wanted and that was how his plan succeeded.

The difference between the word and the sword is also the training in using them. Anyone can learn how to use a sword, even it is not at the highest level possible and with a good training anyone can use properly a sword. But words are different, you can learn words and how to use them, like Othello did, but you need something more to transform that in a considerable power. Iago besides his words had Othello’s trust, his actions from the past which were proof of trust and his fame; everyone knew that he is honest and trustworthy.

I think that we can say for sure which power has the biggest impact in “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice”; Iago is the proof that the words have more power and they can kill people without weapons. Othello is the proof that the sword has no power in the society, maybe in times of war sword play a major role, but not without words to lead that sword and not when there is any war. How Iago used words to manipulate other how he wish and how the tragedy ends is perfection example for the power of word and power of sword with Iago and Othello. The destiny of Iago represents the destiny of word and the Othello’s destiny represents the destiny of sword.


  1. Jens Böttiger – “Is a sword stronger than a word?”; Answered Sep 17, 2018 ; 30/01/2019
  2. Murphy Barrett – “Is a sword stronger than a word?”; Answered Sep 17, 2018 ; 30/01/2019
  3. Ali Zufer – “Is a sword stronger than a word?”; Answered Sep 17, 2018 ; 30/01/2019

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The Power of the Sword and the Power of the Word with Iago and Othello. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
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