Iago's Manipulation of Othello in William Shakespeare's Play

Iago's Manipulation of Othello in William Shakespeare's Play

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Iago's Manipulation of Othello in William Shakespeare's Play

Iago has previously taken the audience into his confidence and we know
what he is going to do. In Act 1 Scene 1, he uses animal imagery such
as "For daws to peck at", "Barbaryhorse", and "an old black ram is
tupping your white ewe"; and images of disease like "poison his
delight" and "Plague him with flies". These images add depth and
cruelty to what he says and provide amusement for the audience. He is
telling Brabantio in the worst possible away about his daughter's
relationship with Othello and he's bad mouthing Othello behind his
back. This makes the audience feel sympathy for both Othello and
Brabantio but the images are so obscene that they can be found funny.
Iago relates to the audience by doing this, therefore getting them on
his side early on in the play.

In Act 1 Scene 2, Iago shows diversity in the way he speaks to
different people and we see deeper into the real Iago; it is as though
he is changing faces. The audience has previously seen him speaking to
Roderigo with little respect and using cruel and racist comments
towards Othello. Now they are witnessing him deceiving Othello by
pretending to be loyal and honest whilst also deceiving Roderigo by
telling clever lies. The way that Iago manipulates Othello makes the
audience think and then realize that people believe him to be honest
because he is sly.

However, Othello proves harder to deceive than Roderigo and Brabantio
because he confident and proud. At the end of Act 1 Scene 3, Iago
starts to plot the downfall of Othello. Firstly, he gives instructions
to Roderigo and then, in a soliloquy, tells the audience his plan as
it comes to mind, "How? How? Let's see". By making Iago do this,
Shakespeare forms a relationship between the audience and Iago and
lets them know everything that's going through Iago's mind. He reveals
his motives to the audience, "'twixt my sheets he's done my office",
he believes that Othello has been to bed with his wife and wants to

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get revenge. Iago is good at finding people's weaknesses and he knows
that Othello's is Desdemona so will use her to seek revenge and to get
Cassio's "place".

This gets the audience to go along with Iago because it's human nature
to like seeing bad things happening to somebody else. The plotting
also has shock value and anticipation because anything could happen
and Iago changes his tone when speaking to different people. The
audience is interested in the plot because they see Othello as
respectful and honest and they don't want anything bad to happen to

In Act 2 Scene 1, Othello says, "not another comfort like to this
succeeds in unknown fate"; he believes that he will never be this
happy again. This is ironic because soon after Iago says, "I'll set
down the pegs that make this music"; he is going to destroy Othello's
happiness and manipulate him. Iago says this in an aside so that the
audience knows the whole plot and the characters don't. Iago has
observed what makes Othello happy and straightaway plots to his
downfall. Scene 1 ends with Iago's soliloquy in which he reveals
another motive for his evil plotting, perhaps to justify his behaviour
to the audience and try to keep them on his side.

In Act 2 Scene 3, Iago relates to the audience by talking about
English people in a favourable way, "O sweet England", he reacts how
people, including the audience, want him to. Shakespeare has done this
so that the audience are involved and are provided with some comic
relief from the seriousness and intrigue of the play. Also, so that
the audience remember he is only human and are more likely to go along
with him and feel that he isn't really doing anything wrong in making
Cassio drunk, just having a good time. By thinking this way, the
audience don't feel so guilty for admiring Iago's cleverness.

Shortly after, Iago manipulates Othello when he is angry and wants to
know what has been going on. He uses imagery of lovers, "like bride
and groom devesting them for bed", to remind Othello of where he was
and to make him resentful of the disturbance. This generalisation
discreetly deceives Cassio and arouses Othello but makes himself look
better. Iago then goes on to say that he would "rather this tongue cut
from my mouth than it should do offence to Michael Cassio", to make it
seen as though the information will have to be dragged from his mouth,
the audience know this is a lie and Iago's calm tone makes Othello
even angrier. Things are going exactly as Iago wants them to and at
this point the audience can enjoy his plots coming to life and,
although the results are devastating to other characters, admire the
quickness of Iago's mind as he makes things up on the spur of the
moment. The fact that the audience know everything might make them
think Othello is stupid to believe everything he is told but he is
unaware of the web of lies surrounding the characters in the play.
Therefore, the audience may be more likely to side with Iago because
they think Othello is just being foolish and doesn't deserve his high
rank in society.

At the end of Act 2 Iago confides in the audience with the rest of his
plan as it emerges. When he talks to Roderigo he says, "this advice is
free I give and honest", he's defending himself and when the audience
begin to side with him his plan gets worse. However, he goes too far
and when death is involved it's not funny anymore. The audience can,
however, admire the way he makes the most of opportunities.

In Act 3 Scene 3 the audience watch Othello fall straight into Iago's
trap when Iago says, "I like not that". Iago has made something from
nothing and just because Cassio is too scared to face Othello, and
Desdemona is kind-hearted, Othello is manipulated into believing they
are having an affair. Iago makes it seem that Othello has thought of
it by himself when actually Iago has planted it in his head. He does
this by being subversive, "In Venice they do let God see the pranks
they dare not show their husbands", giving hypotheses and making
explicit suggestions. He also uses facts for example, "She did deceive
her father, marrying you", to let the audience know he isn't all evil
and to give him power over Othello. This can be seen when Othello
mirrors Iago's language, "goat" and "monster". Iago is repellent
because he is evil and a villain but he is also attractive because he
is cunning and clever.

In Act 3 Scene 4 Iago makes something from nothing by making Othello
caught up by the business of the handkerchief. The way Othello acts
here would be totally unbelievable if not for the lead up to this
scene. This is one of the few scenes when Othello and Desdemona speak
to each other, Iago is careful not to let them talk too often or too
much because Desdemona would make Othello realise that he is wrong
about Cassio. Instead dramatic tension is built up and the audience
long to say something to the characters to release it and give the
play a happy ending. Confusion is a main element of the play, for
example Desdemona has no idea that Othello suspects her of being
disloyal so she keeps on about Cassio and unknowing makes things worse
instead of better. This causes frustration in the audience and they
can feel annoyance with Iago for causing this pain.

Othello is Iago's device in this play and Iago is asking the audience
to approve of torturing a nice person by ruining his life. To a
certain extent the audience follow him by admiration of his quick
thinking and daring personality. However, by destroying innocent and
naïve people and splitting up lovers, the audience distance themselves
from him. They can find comedy in some of the images he uses and in
the irony of the play but there is no way they can agree with what
he's doing. Feelings of sympathy are aroused towards characters that
are unknowing caught up in evil goings on and are soon to be brought
down. Othello is a nice person and the fact that Iago is ruining his
life proves that it's not possible to stay on his side.
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