Reputation Through Perception

2019 Words9 Pages
In Othello, maintaining a positive reputation is of great importance to many characters. Othello out of all of them is extremely obsessed with this since he has always had to work harder at being respected because of the color of his skin. When Desdemona’s faithfulness is called into question by Iago, Othello wants hard evidence of this accusation. In the end, all Othello really goes on are the altering perceptions of reality planted by Iago. These perceptions of situations, events, items, and people, lead Othello to break with reality. This shows how vulnerable reputation is to the perception of others. In Act 3 Scene 3 of this play Iago is able to convince Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithful character through the way in which he carefully phrases his answers to Othello. Iago’s reputation is that of an honest man and many people, as well as Othello, believe him to be trustworthy. Since the perception of Iago is positive by a vast majority he has influence over forming the perception of others’ reputations since his word is taken with little or no argument. With Desdemona being yet another character whom many praise and trust it may seem hard to understand at first why Othello believes Iago over his own wife (Cavell, p. 129), since in the beginning of the play he praises her virtuous character. Since Othello was never aware of Desdemona’s supposed infidelity until Iago tells him of his suspicions Othello starts putting his trust in him. He was blind to it and lets Iago lead the way to enlightening him on the issue. He thinks of Iago as honest as he is known to be by many and believes that he “Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds” (3.3.259) and that he “knows all qualities, with a learnèd spirit, / Of human de... ... middle of paper ... ...ther than a crazed murderer. Throughout this play, the issue of keeping up appearances or reputation is evident. If Iago’s true intentions had been figured out earlier in the play then Desdemona would still be alive. The altering of perceptions was a key element to convincing Othello of his wife’s infidelity. Shakespeare’s flawed tragic hero was duped by a character who was outwardly honest but as the play reveals, perception is not a true indicator of a person’s actual self. The power of perception is evident in that a reputation can be enhanced or destroyed through perceiving others in certain situations. Othello’s obsession with maintaining his own reputation was his ultimate downfall since when he became blinded by keeping everything together he forgot to think with reason and instead thought with an irrational mind filled with jealousy.
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