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". Iago is two-faced in his relationships, even in the language he uses. After referring to Othello as a "black ram", he then tells him "my lord, you know I love you". Iago has no shame in appealing to heaven and godly images in the presence of others, but alone he conversely appeals to hell and evil. His appearance depends on those present, for instance his companion Roderigo, or his loathed acquaintance, Othello. His sycophantic language leads others such as Othello to be drawn into his web.
Othello is initially how he seems, but Iago's later manipulation reveals a very different side to his character. Othello is aware of his qualities, but does not boast as Iago is prone to do. He is dignified and calm when he learns of Brabantio's displeasure at his marriage to Desdemona. Then, when Brabantio challenges him, he reasons with the Senator and advises him to use his dignity not aggression. This is exactly how Othello seems to act, until he is persuaded by Iago that his wife is being unfaithful to him.
How a character seems to be is not entirely dependent on the audience's perception, but on the ideas of characters within the play too. Brabantio believes that in order for Desdemona to have fallen in love with Othel...
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...ot what he seems. However, it cannot be said that all characters are this way. Othello's character, especially, is split by Iago's evil trap.
Persuading Othello that Desdemona and Cassio were having a relationship revealed Othello's undignified side as he became consumed by jealousy and rage. Desdemona was affected by Iago's trap, but her duplicity was independent as she lied to both her father and husband. Cassio, the other standing accused, is how he seems, but not to Othello. The general has come to believe that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona and he regards him with the utmost suspicion. Iago in turn suspects Emilia of having had an affair with Othello, but she seems only to be loyal and dedicated to her mistress, Desdemona. Roderigo's only possible irregularity in the way he seems is his gullibility turning sour into violence towards Cassio.
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