Deception in Shakespeare's Othello

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Deception in Shakespeare's Othello Deception, which by its definition is a bad thing and has only one level or degree, is truly not this way at all. Deception appears many times in Othello, but in almost every incident the degree of deception is different. There are only a few characters that use deception, and those characters all use different degrees of deception to get what they want in the play. Deception is almost always used through verbal language or body language because it is the easiest way to deceive a person. The reasons, or intentions, a person has for deception determines the goodness (or badness) and (or) severity of the deception. If a person deceives others with good intentions, then, in a way, the deception is partially good. However, if a person has bad reasons or intentions in deceiving others, then the deception is bad. There is also, in contrast to the definition of deception, debate over what is deception because it is always different in the eyes of different people. Although deception is always meant to deceive, the degree of deception varies upon the context of the situation. Desdemona gives one example of deception when she hides her relationship with Othello from her father. Brabantio says, “O, she deceives me Past thought!” (1.1.166) Desdemona had reasons for deceiving her father. Her reasons were very simple, because she loved her father she wanted to protect him. Desdemona knew that her father would eventually find out the truth, but she felt that by hiding her relationship with Othello she would be delaying the inevitable pain that her father was going to feel. Since Desdemona loved her father, she felt that by delaying his pain she would be doing him a service, and because Desdemona deceived her father out of love, this deception was not severe. It was however bad, because there was no way in which Desdemona could avoid hurting her father. This shows that even though Desdemona deceived her father and the outcome was bad, it was not severe because her intentions were good hearted. Another example of the degree of deception was when Iago said to Othello, “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (111.3.205). Iago’s deception, which in appearance looks similar to Desdemona’s deception, is in fact very different. When Iago says this to Othello, he is trying to anger Othello, and place doubt in Othello’s mind. Iago’s int... ... middle of paper ... ... each interpretation, Iago is able to ask this question and honestly believe that what he does is not deceitful. Even though deception is defined as malicious, trickery, cheating, and as a sham, it is evident that deception can be good through its intentions, can have different degrees, and is open to debate because of different interpretations. Because Desdemona wanted to spare her father from pain, it was not as deceitful as when Iago lied to Othello to put doubt in his mind. Desdemona’s deception to Othello was good because she did not want to upset him when she thought that she could fix the situation without him knowing. Iago’s deception was bad however, because he tricked Othello by lying to him and wanted to hurt him. Finally, Iago was able to believe that he was not a villain because deception is open to debate because it is different to each person. Shakespeare showed how deception is far different than it’s definition in the “OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY” by giving examples of deception which all differ from the standard definition. Works Cited Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd Ed. Volume 4. 1989. Shakespeare, William. Othello. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.
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