In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago plots revenge on Othello because Othello chose Cassio over him for the lieutenant position, which Iago thought he deserved. Manipulating characters such as Roderigo, his wife Emilia, and Cassio, Iago uses Othello’s flaws of insecurity and impulsiveness to contribute to his own downfall. In the end, Iago succeeds partially, as Othello committed suicide, but Iago is captured and tortured for his crimes. Throughout the story, Iago is completely different from Othello because Iago is amoral and manipulative, while Othello is moral and gullible. However, they do share a similarity as they are both impulsive, acting based on their emotion.
Firstly, the contrast of moral versus amoral. Othello in the beginning of the play, is shown to be a moral character, as he is respected by most and of high ranking. This is evident when he says, “Though he had twinned with me, both at a birth, Shall lose me” (II.iii.175). This tells the audience that Othello does not let relationships cloud his judgement, it shows that he will always do the right thing in the moment. In this case, he fires Cassio, someone who is close to him, because he was intoxicated and acted irresponsibly and erratic, which was the correct decision.
Also, his moral character is displayed when he says, “With all my heart.” (I.iii.273). This quote shows how important Othello’s morals are to him. Even though he was married recently, he accepts the mission to go to Cyprus to defend it from a Turkish invasion. Showing he would risk his life for the betterment of his country, which is the right behaviour for a respected general like himself. In contrast, Iago is a very amoral character, he lies, and proceeds with bad actions. This is exhibited when he gets Cassio drunk (II.iii.273). He gets Cassio drunk and makes him act erratically in order to make Othello fire him from the lieutenant position because he wanted it. Cassio may not have had the experience as said by Iago, but, he still was chosen by Othello in the beginning, meaning Iago had no justification to steal his job.
Moreover, Iago’s amoral self is seen when he murders Roderigo after he failed to kill Cassio (V.i.64). Iago murders Roderigo, so he would not have to give back his jewels and so his plan could never be revealed, and he would still maintain his innocence. However, this came at a cost, it cost Iago, a man’s life, an innocent man’s life and it was unjust to kill an innocent man showing Iago’s amoral character. This contrast between moral and amoral plays a significant role in the play as it shows the difference between Othello and Iago’s relationships with other characters. Othello does not proceed with bad actions unless manipulated due to his moral character, this reflects how, many people respect him throughout the entire play. Compared to Iago, who is amoral, which is reflected in his relationships, as he must lie to every other character for them to like him, and at the end of the play, everyone seems to hate him.
Secondly, the comparison that can be seen in Othello, is Iago’s manipulative and Othello’s gullible personalities. Manipulation can be seen in Iago in every act of the play. He is always manipulating someone or explaining his plan in soliloquies. This is clearly shown when Iago says to Roderigo, “O murd’rous slave! O villain!” (V.i.64) and murders him. It is clear how Iago lied to and used Roderigo for his own benefit. Earlier Iago promised Roderigo that if he helped him kill Cassio, Iago would give him back his jewels. However, Iago only said that to get Roderigo’s help and had no intention of returning the jewels. After Roderigo’s failed attempt at killing Cassio, Iago murders Roderigo to protect his own innocence. Furthermore, during the conversation between Iago and Othello when Iago says, “There are a kind of men
So loose of soul that in their sleeps will mutter Their affairs. One of this kind is Cassio.”Lago knows that Othello loves Desdemona with all his heart and that Othello will get jealous if she were to cheat on him. He also knows that Othello has a lot of trust in him and will believe what he says. So, Iago lies to Othello, saying Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio in order to upset Othello and enrage him to his downfall. Contrarily, Othello’s gullible personality is exploited by Iago in the middle to end of the play. This is evident when he believes Iago’s words that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio because he says, “She is gone, and I am abused”. This signifies to the reader that due to Othello’s gullible character, he has started a path where there is no return. He will keep thinking Desdemona is cheating on him because Iago will keep fooling him. Moreover, he is shown to be gullible when he says, “Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell,” even after Desdemona swears she isn’t cheating. This shows his undying trust to Iago, who is manipulating him. He is persuaded by Iago very often that he does not believe anyone else unless it is Iago, showing just how gullible he really is, and shows Othello’s insecurity as he does not believe his wife could be loyal to him.
The comparison of manipulation and gullibility is important to the play as it is the driving force for the main conflict. Iago’s manipulation of Othello’s gullibility affects Othello’s relationships with every character as he acts differently towards them and his behaviour seems to change as well, which inevitability leads to his downfall.
Lastly, both characters share a similar trait, which is that they both are impulsive, and act based on their emotions. Throughout the play Iago is impulsive and acts based on his hatred. This is displayed when he says, “I hate the Moor. My cause is hearted. Thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him”. This clearly shows how due to Othello choosing Cassio, Iago has a strong hatred against Othello. He has such great hatred that he wants to get revenge and get back at him.
However, he could have been moral and patient about this situation and just have asked Othello why he chose Cassio, and that he thinks he is a better person for the job, showing he put no thought into another solution. In addition, his impulsiveness is shown when he kills his wife. In that scene, she is revealing Iago’s plan to Othello and a few others, enraging him. He tells her to be quiet multiple times, but she does not, and without thought, Iago stabs her because he is scared she will ruin his plan and his innocence. Showing how his emotion lead him to a hasty decision. Similarity, Othello is impulsive and acts on emotion in the middle to end of the play. This is easily seen when he says, “Oh, that the slave had forty thousand lives! One is too poor, too weak for my revenge”. Displaying how Othello acts right after he discovers evidence that his wife is cheating on him. He is very angry and revengeful, and just wants to get back at Cassio and Desdemona. He does talk to Desdemona about the situation after, but he chooses to disregard her words, as he again gets angry. All these actions are created by his anger and inability to not make hasty conclusions. To add on, his impulsiveness is seen when he gives his speech to Lodovico.
This speech tells the reader that he is feeling remorse, and regret for not trusting more in Desdemona, and that he should have known her worth, but that he was tricked, so he decides to kill himself. However, his decision to commit suicide was very quick and he was not in the right mind to make a judgement, as he was feeling many different emotions at the time.
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