Othello

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Jealousy Comes with a Price

Society makes us think of the seven deadly sins in different ways and it has

many opinions on which is the deadliest. In Othello, the sin of envy is the deadliest of

sins. The villain Iago’s envy infects both Roderigo’s small mind and Othello’s great

heart, ultimately destroying the very embodiment of innocence, Desdemona.

Many of the characters in Othello have specific roles to aid the main character.

One who certainly plays the part of a pawn in Iago’s chess game is Roderigo. While the

first act opens to Roderigo arguing with Iago, the audience can see how easy it was for

Iago to change the subject of conversation from Roderigo blaming Iago of cheating him

out of his money, to Iago’s anger at “the Moor” for choosing Cassio as his second in

command, to the idea that Roderigo should tell Barbantio about his daughter

Desdemona and her relationship with Orthello (1.1.1-75).

Iago continues to use Roderigo as a pawn when Iago gets Cassio drunk and tells

Roderigo to go after him (2.1.257-269; 2.3.130-131). Cassio strikes Roderigo and Iago

instructs him to go “cry a mutiny” (2.3.150) to create the chaos that Iago needs to ruin

Othello’s first night with his new spouse Desdemona. After this scene, Roderigo

disappears for most of the play, reappearing at the end of Act 4, Scene 2 to deal with

Iago himself. Once again, Iago takes advantage of this opportunity and turns the

subject of the conversation while accepting and agreeing with the statements Roderigo

makes against him. After he makes these accusations, Iago tells Roderigo about the

message from Venice saying that Cassio will replace Othello as head of the army. This

is when Iago plants the idea of killing Cassio to keep Othello, and therefore keeping

Desdemona, in Cyprus. (4.2.171-241). While Roderigo tries to stand up for himself, his

small mind will not let him follow through with it until the end.

The plot thickens when Iago meets up with Othello in the second scene of the

play. Iago presents himself as Othello’s friend, making sure to be kept in the inner circle.

He “jokingly” mentions to Othello how he lacks the evil-mindedness to kill in cold blood,

even though he has thought about killing Roderigo many times (1.2.1-5). He also

swears by the roman god Janus (1.2.33) when Othello asks him if it is Barbantio,

Roderigo, his officers. Othello, in his good heart has ignored these clues. Iago then put

his plan into action after Othello has dismissed Cassio from his service. He begins his

campaign with the remark that its bizarre for Cassio to be leaving the company of

Othello’s wife in a hurry when he sees Iago and Othello enter the room. He continues by

asking if Cassio knew about Othello’s love for Desdemona when Othello was wooing

her (3.3.93-103), asking Othello to watch how Desdemona interacts with Cassio,

reminding Othello that Desdemona lied to her father to marry him, that she pretended to

be frightened of Othello when really she loved him most, and how all these prove that

she can be deceptive (3.3.194-212).

It is at the end of this scene that Iago truly believes that he has Othello in his

pocket. So he continues on through the scene, picking at everything Desdemona has

done, answering with a rehearsed response when Othello asks him for living proof; “I do

not like the office. But sith I am entered in this cause so far - pricked to’t by foolish

honesty and love - I will go on. I lay with Cassio lately, and being troubled with a raging

tooth I could not sleep. There are kinds of men so loose of soul that in their sleeps will

mutter their affairs: One of this kind is Cassio. In sleep I heard him say: ‘Sweet

Desdemona, let us be wary, let us hide our loves’; And then sir, would he gripe and

wring my hand, cry ‘O, sweet creature!’ and then kiss me hard, as if he plucked up

kissed by the roots that...
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