Othello is yet another classic by William Shakespeare. Othello’s setting is the cities of Venice and Cyprus. The characters include Othello, Iago, Brabantio, Cassio, Roderigo, Desmodena and Emilia. These are the main Othello’s characters that are central to the main themes of the play: betrayal, manipulation, murder and blackmail (Dobson 448).
What is Othello About?
Othello is a Moor while Cassio is his lieutenant. Iago is his ancestor. Roderigo is a Venetian gentleman who is also a good friend of Iago. Where does Othello take place? The play starts in Venice where Iago and Roderigo talk about their shared hatred for Othello (Shakespeare 7). Roderigo hates Othello for eloping with a girl he loved and Iago hates him for favoring Cassio over him for a lieutenant position. The two therefore plan to sabotage Othello using different methods. Iago manipulates him to believe that his wife Desmodena, Brabantio's daughter, is having an affair with Cassio. He implicates Cassio so that Othello would sack and possibly kill him, thus doing a favor to Roderigo, who would then be the only option for Desmodena in case she leaves Othello after her blood is made dull with the act of sport. (Shakespeare 34) The play ends tragically with several murders and suicide scenarios. Othello's gullibility was the reason why this play ended up like this.
Othello is faced with hindrances in his marriage right from the word go. His father-in-law accuses him of bewitching and eloping with his daughter in marriage. Roderigo, his mortal enemy, is happy with this accusation that would see Othello jailed (Shakespeare 14). The foundation of his marriage is perhaps the reason why he believes in anything that he is told about his wife. We can tell that he does not believe in his ability to maintain Desmodena as his wife, and that Desmodena would easily cheat on him by encountering a better man. Therefore, when Iago insinuates that Cassio could be having an affair with his wife, he bursts into anger that leads to downstream events. Othello is easily manipulated and Iago is aware of this. He knows that Othello and Desdemona's relationship is shaky and it was his weakest point (Dobson 448).
Iago's wits led to the sacking of Cassio as the Moors lieutenant. In an attempt to have himself reinstated to the job, he summons Desmodena for a plea. He wants Desmodena to convince her husband to have him back. At the instance that he was meeting Desmodena, Othello appears with Iago. On seeing them, Cassio runs away but he is seen by both Othello and Iago. Iago uses this incident to poison Othello. He takes him through a discourse that eventually convinces Othello that Cassio was indeed having an affair with his wife. Iago tells Othello to Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio; Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor (sic) secure since just like he left her father for Othello, she could also leave Othello for Cassio (Shakespeare 58). This event was a product of a well-orchestrated move by Iago in incriminating Cassio. Othello, gullibility is seen when he believes Iago's claims that Cassio was the author of incidents that led to the stabbing of the Governor. Othello's decisions are driven by his trust for Iago. He does not judge beyond Iago's story.
The deaths of Cassio, Roderigo, Desmodena and Iago do have a root in Othello's gullibility but not more than they have in Iago's manipulation. Roderigo's and Cassio's deaths are due to Iago's failed plans. Even Desmodenas tells the audience that he has died on her own hand (Nobody; I myself. Farewell: Commend me to my kind lord: O, farewell) and her death is not caused by her squabbles with Othello (Shakespeare 113). Iago takes his life due to the guilt he felt by causing so many deaths. In other words, the tragic ending of the play is largely due to Iago's manipulation.
Why Do Othello and All the Other Characters Fall For Iago’s Deception and Manipulation?
Iago, Othello's enemy, takes on a mission to satisfy his desires and find justice for his friend Roderigo. He has two enemies that he wants to annihilate. He wants to bring down Othello for overlooking him for the position of lieutenant. He also wants to have revenge on Cassio for taking his position in the Moors leadership coterie. He accomplishes both missions, he fakes close friendship to Cassio and Othello. In fact, the whole play is based on Iago's wit from the start to the end. He sets up Othello against Brabantio by using Roderigo as the facade. He tells him to tell Othello to Desmodenas father, but he escapes the scene to avoid being known by Othello. Later in the play, he carries out a series of scams that eventually bring the play to a tragic end (Dobson 448).
He manipulates Roderigo to fight Cassio when drunk so that he kills him. In an interesting twist of events, Cassio turns on his attacker and chases him with a knife. The intervention of the governor gets him stabbed. This forms the genesis of more dramatic events that terminate the play. In yet another incident, Iago manipulates the Moor in believing that Casino was seeing his wife. The Moor in turn diverts his anger to his wife after being convinced that she gave her handkerchief to Cassio to wipe his beards (Shakespeare 73). He also sets up Bianca against Cassio using the handkerchief. On this occasion, he tells Othello to eavesdrop a conversation between him and Cassio about the handkerchief issue. The zenith of Iago's evil is perhaps when he manipulates his wife to steal Desmodena's handkerchief.
There is a continuous flow of events instigated by Iago, Othello's betrayer, and his wit. Iago convinces Othello that his wife was unfaithful. Othello kills Desdemona, his wife. Iago incites Roderigo against Cassio. He kills Cassio and Roderigo as a result of this. He later kills himself.
In as much as Othello's marriage is central to this play, Othello's doubt for his wife's faithfulness is not the major cause of dramatic events at the end of the play. It is evident from the above discussion that Iago was the root of all evil in a move to fulfill his desires. His plans however backfire on him and he kills himself in the process. No matter how foolish and gullible Othello appears to be, he survives the incident although he acquires the title of a murderer at the end.
Dobson, Michael. "Review of Shakespeare's Othello (directed by Nicholas Hytner) at the National Theatre, Olivier Auditorium, London, 6 July 2013." Shakespeare 10.4 (2014): 448-450.
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Othello. Vol. 27. Methuen, 1903.
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