The Manipulation of Perception in Shakespeare's Othello

  • Length: 1210 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

The Manipulation of Perception in Othello  


This paper contains 237 words of teacher’s comments.   What one perceives is influenced by one’s environment. The setting and commentary surrounding events changes our perception of them. Any innocent gesture can be perceived in the wrong way with enough persuading from someone else. Even if someone has total faith in another person's innocence, they can be persuaded to doubt them through the twisting of events. Once just a small amount of doubt has been planted, it influences the way everything else is seen. This occurs throughout the play, Othello. In this play, Iago influences Othello's perception of events through speeches and lies, making him doubt Desdemona's fidelity. Iago uses his talent of manipulating events to exact his revenge on Othello. Iago's twisting of events in Othello's mind leads to the downfall of Othello as planned, but because he fails to twist Emilia's perception as well, he facilitates his own eventual downfall.


When Iago first sets out to deceive Othello, he tells him, "look at your wife; observe her well with Cassio" (3.3.196). He knows that if he can plant enough doubt and jealousy in Othello's mind, Othello only needs to look at Desdemona being friendly with Cassio to suspect infidelity. After this, when Desdemona asks for Cassio's reinstatement, it looks as though she is trying to get something better for her lover, as opposed to just helping a friend.


Iago talks about jealousy and deception in this same scene, but never gives any proof or direct descriptions of Desdemona's betrayal. Yet we know that Othello's perception has been sufficiently influenced to make him angry and sick by the end of this conversation. He tells Desdemona he has a headache, but he refuses any help from her. When she puts her handkerchief to his head, he pushes it away saying, "your napkin is too little" (3.3.285). This takes on more significance later on in the play when we find out that this handkerchief is the first token of love Othello ever gave to Desdemona.


Also in this scene, we see how much Othello had trusted, loved, and believed in Desdemona. He says, "I do not think but Desdemona's honest" and "If she be false, O then heaven mocks itself! I'll not believe't"(3.3.223, 275-6). But he does suspect her, and it seems these statements are only there to convince himself that she really is true.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Manipulation of Perception in Shakespeare's Othello." 25 May 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Iago’s Manipulation in Act One of Shakespeare's Othello Essay - Iago’s Manipulation in Act One of Othello The events that occur in the first half of Act 1 are all in anticipation of the lead character Othello who we are not immediately introduced too. We learn Iago’s name in the second line of the play and Roderigo’s soon after, but Othello is not mentioned by his name once. Instead he is referred to as ‘he’, ‘him’ and is frequently described as ‘the moor’ (1.1.58) he is also described as having ‘thick lips’ (1.1.67) and later as being a ‘Barbary horse’ (1.1.111) is continuously described by his critics, mainly Iago, as a ‘moor’, demonstrating Iago’s frequently concerning nature of race and also portraying Othello as something of an alien....   [tags: Othello essays] 746 words
(2.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Talent of Iago in Shakespeare's Othello Essay - The Talent of Iago in Othello        William Shakespeare's Othello is a tragic drama that shows the overwhelming power of deception and the damage it can lead to.  Othello's right-hand man is Iago; on the surface a die-hard friend and confidant, in reality comparable to the devil himself.  Iago uses other characters as though they were his puppets, planting lies and watching the sorrowful fruit born.  Iago deceives virtuous, yet weaker men (such as Cassio and Roderigo) with ease, but feels greatly threatened by the most powerful, virtuous general in the land - Othello.  Othello's only flaw is jealousy, and Iago exploits this to no end, using him to get what he wants.  Iago's talent to ma...   [tags: Shakespeare Othello Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
1110 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Iago as Expert Manipulator in Shakespeare's Othello Essay - Iago as Expert Manipulator in Othello        In Othello, by William Shakespeare, the character of Iago cleverly and skillfully alters the appearance of reality within certain characters minds that are clouded by emotion. While Iago does deceive both Cassio and Roderigo, the most vulnerable character to Iago's treachery appears to be Othello. By being a good director and manipulator of emotions and intentions, Iago carries out his plan to exploit Othello's mental weakness almost flawlessly. Iago's ability to bend and sometimes replace the truth with his own lies drives the overall action of the play....   [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Othello]
:: 4 Works Cited
1062 words
(3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Iago’s Scheming in Shakespeare's Othello Essay - Iago’s Scheming in Othello   Iago is a powerful predator who exploits those around him by infecting their perceptions of truth with carefully chosen fallacy. His skill in finding the proverbial chinks in others' armor allows him to skillfully weave his machinations of destroying Othello into their minds and actions; by manipulating character's perceptions of Desdemona, Iago gains the leverage he needs to exploit each character. No one is impervious to Iago's seething purpose; even Othello falls prey to Iago's suggestions and insinuations about Desdemona....   [tags: Othello essays] 841 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay about The Dual Nature of Characters in Othello - The Dual Nature of Characters in Othello In Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, Iago is uncharacteristically honest when he says "I am not what I am". However, he is not the only character whose appearance differs from the reality. Nonetheless, he is possibly the only person who intends this duplicity. Unfortunately everyone is under the impression that Iago is "honest and just". Once alone, Iago reveals "when devils will the blackest sins put on, they do suggest at first with heavenly shows as I do now"....   [tags: GCSE Coursework Shakespeare Othello] 1072 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Manipulation In Othello And Dr. Faustus Essay - The art of deception The art of deception many times changes the current conditions or plays a significant role in the end result of literary works. In Othello and The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus shows how deception changes the identity of individuals and the outcome of certain events. There is a juxtaposition between the characters of Iago and Faustus, whom use their human autonomy to manipulate the sequence of events in each work. By deceiving themselves or the characters around them there becomes an absolute play on words and actions, wherein the identity and outcome is strengthened or lost....   [tags: essays research papers] 3623 words
(10.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Iago’s Soliloquies and Intentions Essay - Iago’s Soliloquies and Intentions In every play, there is at least one character that jumps off the page and begs for your attention. In The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare, this character is Iago. Iago is a devious man, a liar, a manipulator, and a psychopath. It seems Shakespeare developed a very maniacal character but not one that is unreal. I feel as though we have our fair share of Iago’s in today’s society. Many politicians seem to fit into this category, manipulating people for manipulation sake....   [tags: William Shakespeare, Othello, manipulation] 1862 words
(5.3 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Iago: The Living Janus Essay example - There are many people that are considered sociopaths in the world, many of which hold high ranks in our society; amongst those many people you could find presidents and CEO's of companies, all willing to do whatever it takes to step on all kinds of people to get to the top of the social classes. If the definition of a sociopath is someone with an emotional and behavior disorder, clear perception of reality save for the person's social and moral obligations and often by the pursuit of immediate gratification in criminal acts or sexual perversion then Iago fits the description perfectly....   [tags: Shakespeare's Othello] 1314 words
(3.8 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
William Shakespeare's Othello Essay - William Shakespeare's Othello Every scene in a play has some dramatic significance otherwise the author wouldn't have included it. However, certain scenes have a greater significance than others. In this instance, Act 3, Scene 3 is fairly pivotal. We can quite easily split this chapter into several separate "pivot" points, each essential individually, and collectively. I am going to look at each of these points....   [tags: Papers] 2274 words
(6.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Iago’s Manipulation of Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello Essay - Iago’s Manipulation of Othello in Shakespeare’s Othello Once a seed of suspicion or doubt is planted in a person’s mind, the noxious effect of jealousy is soon to ensue. Jealousy and suspicion are Othello’s flaws hubris throughout the play and foreshadow to the audience his imminent downfall. He believes what Iago tells him so strongly that he compromises his close relationship with his best friend and his love for his wife. Iago manipulates Othello through the use of extortion, literary techniques, and his keen judge of character....   [tags: Othello Essays Shakespeare Papers] 459 words
(1.3 pages)
Good Essays [preview]

Related Searches

The doubt is already in his heart.


In Act three, scene four, after Othello has questioned Desdemona about the handkerchief and they have fought, Emilia says, "Is not this man jealous?" Desdemona replies, "I ne'er saw this before"(3.4.104-5). Obviously, Othello had never shown jealousy towards her before, and he had probably never even raised his voice to her. Iago's plan of planting suspicion in Othello is working and it gets worse the more Desdemona talks about Cassio. That Othello would mistrust the woman he had loved and trusted so much shows how strongly another person can influence one's perception.



Iago uses words to twist events not only in Othello's mind, but in the other characters as well. He hints at Desdemona being "full of game" to Cassio in act two, scene three. In this scene, Cassio knows that Desdemona is a good woman. Every time Iago says something suggestive, Cassio answers with a compliment. Iago says:




Iago. What an eye she has! Methinks it sounds a parley to provocation.

Cassio. An inviting eye, and yet methinks right modest.





Cassio refuses to give in to Iago's baiting and talk of Desdemona in an immoral way, so Iago changes the topic of conversation. Instead, he brings up the subject of drinking, knowing he can manipulate in a different way.


In act two, scene one; Iago tries to make Roderigo believe that Desdemona does not truly love Othello and that she will soon change her mind. To do this, he uses their common prejudice against black people to convince Roderigo that she could not possibly want Othello. Then he discusses the recent events, in which Cassio took Desdemona by the hand. We know that Cassio only did that to be courteous, but Iago twists its meaning. He says to Roderigo, "Didst thou not see her paddle with the palm of her hand? _ Lechery _ [a] prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts"(2.1.246-50). Thus an innocent gesture of kindness has taken on foul connotations because of Iago's commentary on it.


Although Iago can change everyone's perception so well, he cannot change Emilia's perception of Desdemona. In fact, he doesn't even try. He must assume that because she is a woman and his wife, Emilia will not question him. Usually, he doesn't. When Emilia gives Iago Desdemona's handkerchief, he thanks her by calling her a "good wench." When she asks "what will you do with't," he says, "Be no acknown on it: I have use for it. Go, leave me" and she leaves (3.3.316-7). Perhaps if Iago had taken the time to deceive Emilia as well she would not have spoken out against him in the end.


In act five, scene two; Iago's plan has finally paid off. Othello has killed Desdemona and Cassio and Roderigo have wounded each other as well. It seems as though his revenge is complete, but then Emilia tells everyone what really happened with the handkerchief. Iago expected her to obey him, as she had always done before. He says, "I charge you get you home." Emilia says, "'Tis proper I obey him, but not now" (5.2.193-5). Even she is apprehensive about disobeying her husband.


In the end, after all the work that Iago did to manipulate events and everyone's perception, his ignorance about his wife's loyalty ultimately causes his downfall and eventual punishment: as Lodovico says, "the censure of this hellish villain." And thus, Iago fails.




This paper, while not perfect, has two important things going for it. First, it has a really good idea for its thesis. It doesn't just assert that Iago is manipulative of others' perception, but also that he omits to deceive his wife--and that this is crucial to the outcome of the play. The second, related strength is that this thesis lends the paper a very good organization. It has a trajectory, moving through the examples of Iago's successful manipulation to the crucial point of his failure to manipulate Emilia. It builds on the earlier examples to set up the contrasting point at its conclusion.


This paper does not, however, make it into the A range, for several reasons. First and foremost, it is fundamentally imbalanced, spending much more time on the early examples of Iago's success than on the main point (his failure with Emilia): what the thesis indicates as the main point of the paper is not treated with the appropriate detail. The quotations in paragraphs three, four and five don't seem particularly useful or relevant to the main point the author is making about Iago's manipulative technique. The paper suffers from a number of awkward sentence constructions and doesn't flow very smoothly in places--for instance, in the last two sentences of the paper (paragraph ten).




Return to