Shakespeare's Othello - Honest Iago

Shakespeare's Othello - Honest Iago

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Othello – Honest Iago

Without a doubt, one of the main themes that runs throughout William Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello, is that of honesty.  In the play, the most interesting character is Iago, who is commonly called and known as "Honest Iago."  However, this could not be farther from the truth.  Through some carefully thought-out words and actions, Iago is able to manipulate others to do things in a way that benefits and moves him closer to his own goals.  He is smart and an expert at judging the characters of others.  Because of this, Iago pushes everyone to their tragic end.

               Iago knows very well that trust and deceit must go hand in hand in order for him to achieve his vengeance on Othello and Cassio.  Hence, as he plans the downfalls of them, he is continually trying to obtain their undoubting trust.  He slowly poisons people’s thoughts, creating ideas in their heads without implicating himself.  Iago even says himself that the advice he gives is free and honest and thus, people rarely stop to consider the possibility that Iago is fooling them.

               One person Iago deceives is Roderigo.  Throughout the play, Iago tells him that he hates Othello and that Roderigo should make some money so he could give gifts to Desdemona, who he admires from afar.  Thinking that this is sound advice, Roderigo does just that.  However, Iago is actually keeping the gifts that Roderigo plans to give Desdemona for himself.  Eventually, Roderigo begins to catch on to the act and confronts Iago, but he falls right into Iago’s trap again when he tells him that killing Cassio will help him win over Desdemona.  Roderigo is then lead to his death by the hands of "Honest Iago."

               Like Roderigo, Cassio also believes in "Honest Iago," for he thinks that Iago is only trying to help him.  On the night of Cassio’s watch, Iago convinces him to take another drink, knowing very well that it will make him drunk.  Even though he really doesn’t want to, Roderigo puts his faith into  Iago and states, "I’ll do’t, but it dislikes me."  Iago’s plan goes smoothly when Cassio is make to look like an irresponsible fool, resulting in his termination as lieutenant.

               Iago’s master plan of deception, however, centered around Othello’s jealously over Desdemona.  The whole time, Othello holds Iago to be his close friend and advisor.

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  This allows Iago to plant the suspicion of his wife’s unfaithfulness in the all-trusting Othello’s head and later "proves" this suspicion by planting evidence.  Only after he kills her does Othello realize the mistake he make in trusting the "Honest Iago."  Trust is a powerful emotion that can easily be abused and, unfortunately, Iago knew this.  He does know all about human dealings, but he is far from honest.  He uses the trust that people put into him to turn them into his own little guinea pigs that work to his, and only his, advantage.

               J.G. Holland once stated "Reputation and character are widely different things.  Character lives in a man; reputation outside of him."  This can be clearly seen in Williams Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello.  How others perceive a character is of key importance to the action of the play.

               For instance, we all know that that the character of Iago is corrupt through and through.   There probably isn’t one good bone in his body.  But ironically, the other characters all see him as "Honest Iago."  This allows him to manipulate them to achieve his own greedy goals.  Iago is consumed with envy and plots to steal the position he feels he deserves.  He tricks Othello into believing that his own wife is having an affair, without any concrete proof.  Othello makes this really easy for him since he wouldn’t dare think that Iago was deceiving him in any way.

               Desdemona’s reputation of being unfaithful leads to her downfall.  Since she lied to her father about her marriage to Othello, people believe that she is capable of all sorts of lies and deception.  Even her own husband did not believe her.  This is one reason why Othello fell for Iago’s trap so easily.  However, Desdemona’s only tragic flaw is that she loved Othello too much.  Unfortunately, Othello does not realize that Desdemona had been a faithful wife until after he had killed her.

               The vast difference between reputation and character adds not only irony, but also conflict to Othello.  It gives the play a twist, while maintaining the audiences undivided attention.  When you are reading the book, it’s almost like you could wish that there was a way you could speak to the characters themselves and show that their perception of other characters is totally wrong.


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