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Manipulation and Self-Identity in Othello

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Manipulation And Self-identity In Othello

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“In following him, I follow but myself” (1.1.590) Iago states as he makes it his goal to get revenge on Othello after losing the bid for the position of Lieutenant. However, due to his miscalculations, his wife Emilia catches on and reveals his diabolical scheme. In the play “Othello” by William Shakespeare, Iago demonstrates his manipulative prowess by orchestrating Othello’s downfall. Iago executes his plan through his awareness, cunningness, and language.

Iago’s insight and awareness of others allow him to understand and exploit their flaws. He is aware of each person’s insecurities and uses this knowledge to leverage them to his advantage. Othello’s outsider status and disconnection with the Venetian society, make Iago’s approach appear effortless. Othello buys into his façade of a loyal and “honest Iago” (2.3.294). Later, Iago points out that “[Desdemona] did deceive her father” (3.3.210-3), subtly hinting towards a lack of loyalty or possibly adultery. This causes Othello to question where Desdemona’s loyalty truly lies. Additionally, Emilia is a stubborn and strong character, who gives in to any of Iago’s requests. Iago, being incredibly adept in manipulation, uses Emilia in a way so he can ‘bid [Emilia] to steal’ (3.3.111) the handkerchief as “ocular proof” (3.3.361) to redirect Othello’s suspicions. Iago knows Emilia will give in with enough pressuring, so he continues to pressure her. Although his sharp eye and attentiveness to detail are impeccable, it isn’t the only aspect leading to his success. Iago knows his way around people, but his observation skills are only effective if he is to apply them with his smooth-talk and duplicitous speech.

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Not only is Iago’s insight vital, but his use of language is also especially effective. This is exhibited when he ironically lies to people to maintain his reputation as an honest man. Before the fight, Cassio mentions “[he]never knew a Florentine more kind and honest” (3.1.39). Iago’s language and interactions with others have earned him the reputation of a sincere and honest man who appears to look out for his friends, but this is not the case. He must lie to sustain his false reputation of honesty. Likewise, his expertise in language is important when he tricks Roderigo and “make my fool my purse” (1.3.374). Ultimately, it is Iago’s insight and language that makes his manipulation so effective, but there is still one more piece to the puzzle: his cunningness and trickery.

Finally, Iago uses his cunning tricks to control people to bend to his will. An example of his tricks is his acknowledgment of Cassio’s love for alcohol. He says, “If I can fasten a cup upon him… he’ll be as full of quarrel and offense As my young mistress’ dog” (2.3. 41- 44). Being fully aware of this, Iago invites him to “a measure to the health of black Othello” (2.3.27-8). Iago plans to use this knowledge to his advantage. His plan to get Cassio drunk and subsequently start a street brawl results in Othello stating “Cassio, I love thee, but never more be an officer of mine” (2.3 233-234). Similarly, Iago warns Othello to “look to your wife, observe her well with Cassio” (3.3.199). In his conversation with Othello, Iago insinuates a possibility of Desdemona cheating on him with Cassio, exploiting Othello’s insecurity and turning it against him.

In closing, Iago as a “master manipulator” has a lasting effect on the characters of the play “Othello’. With his language, insight, and his cunningness, Iago manages to choreograph the outcome of the entire play. He applies his insight to prey on the weaknesses of each character and uses them to his advantage. Language and speech patterns are important because he uses them to maintain his reputation as an honest man. Iago employs his cunningness to turn people against each other, ruining relationships and reputations alike.

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