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Themes of Deception in William Shakespeare's Othello

Powerful Essays
Themes of Deception in William Shakespeare's Othello

Deception is one of the main themes running through Othello, along

with love, pride and society. Indeed, it is deception that provides

the fuel for the plot and deception that is leads to the classic

downfall of the 'hero' as is common in Shakespeare tragedies. We see

Macbeth and Hamlet both succumb to downfall.

perhaps the most obvious deception is Iago's deception. The principal

method that Iago uses to convince Othello of Desdemona´s infidelity is

by using one of Othello´s most treasured possessions and telling

Othello that his wife, Desdemona, has given it away to her lover,

Cassio. This treasured possession of Othello´s is a handkerchief,

which "Did an Egyptian to my mother give". The handkerchief is hugely

important to Othello because it is a link back to his mother who also

told Othello to give it to his wife. "She dying gave it me, And bid me

when my fate would have me wive, To give it her". So to Othello this

handkerchief symbolises their perfect union with an almost divine

quality, stating that it has "magic in the web of it". Iago tells

Othello that he saw Cassio wiping his mouth with it, much like a rag.

" I know not that; but such a handkerchief- I am sure it was your

wife´s- did I today. See Cassio wipe his beard with". This crass act,

enhanced by Iago's crass recounting of it, is deliberate to enrage

Othello. Deception can be subtle enough to filter into one's mind

where it grows until the mind is turned over and deceit rules.

Shakespeare is telling us that deception is a seed that must be

planted carefully but has the potential to grow monstrous.

Iago doe...

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...n to see that, in Iago's deception of Othello he is motivated

by his jealousy and subsequent bitterness. In conclusion, it's evident

that Iago is evil for greed's sake, as opposed to evil for evil's

sake. His craving can be seen in his clever manipulation of Roderigo,

Cassio, and Othello. He uses Roderigo for his own financial benefit,

as well as support his master plan; the destruction of Othello. Cassio

was unfortunate enough to be chosen ahead of Iago as Othello's

second-in-command, and was reduced to a deteriorated state by Iago

because of it. Lastly, driven by his bitterness towards Othello for

choosing Cassio over him, Iago takes it upon himself to ensure

Othello's demise. Iago is an extremely complex character, and far from

ordinary. His complexity and uniqueness makes him one of Shakespeare's

greatest villains.
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