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  • Topic: Othello, Iago, Michael Cassio
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To what extent does Shakespeare present Othello as being responsible for his own downfall?

Shakespeare’s Othello consists of the themes betrayal, love and dishonesty. At the centre of this play is the tragic downfall of Othello at the hands of his so called friend Iago. In this essay I will be discussing the reasons for and against Othello being responsible for his downfall through looking at critical interpretations of his character and actions.

In some ways you could say that Othello was highly responsible for his own downfall as he was easily manipulated by Iago showing him to be gullible and naïve. Iago manipulates Othello by making him suspicious through inference, “Ha I like not that”.

Iago mutters this in act 3 scene 3 when he sees Desdemona and Cassio talking. Iago hints that he knows something making sure Othello can hear yet making it subtle enough to pretend that he didn’t want him to know. Iago then pretends to be reluctant to tell Othello about Desdemona, “Utter my thoughts! Why, say they are vile and false?” He tells Othello just enough to intrigue him; he does this by asking leading questions, “Did Micheal Cassio when you wooed my lady, know of your love?” Iago exasperates Othello by revealing so little,

“I did not think he had been acquainted with her”.
This adds to Othello’s jealousy about Desdemona and so he keeps asking more questions about what Iago may know “What dost thou say, Iago? He then wants to no all the details, “I prithee speak to me as to thy thinkings”.

Iago is gaining more influence over Othello after this point `as Othello is becoming more trusting of him, Iago is putting himself in a place of knowledge and power. The critic leavis also agrees that Othello has no one to blame but himself for his actions, ‘………………………………………….’.

Yet in some ways you could say that Othello wouldn’t have acted the way he did if it wasn’t for the fact that Iago was manipulating him and therefore he might not have been entirely responsible. Bradley also a critic states that it was Iago’s manipulation that eventually led to Othello’s downfall, ‘…………………………………………..’.

On closer examination, throughout the play we see Iago manipulating all the characters in turn; this shows that he is an expert master manipulator for everyone to be deceived by him. When reading this play we don’t expect Othello to be as easily manipulated by Iago as he was. As Othello is a general in the army we expect more discipline for him. He is a highly respected general in a trusted position of authority. How could he have been driven into such a murderous rope, either at the hand of another (Iago) or by a fault of his own?

Othello has no reason to doubt what Iago is saying in fact he thinks him honest and has placed great trust in him………………………………. and therefore he becomes more easily manipulated by him, the more Othello trusts Iago the more lies he can tell in his favour. Iago ingratiates himself to Othello and appears to be the good guy ………………………………………………. Othello is a foreigner and is culturally naïve, he is not from Venice and so doesn’t have much knowledge of Venetian culture. Iago uses this to his advantage by telling Othello he knows of Venetian woman and Venetian culture, “I know our country disposition well:”

Iago translates events and give Othello misleading information, he tells that Venetian woman often cheat on their husbands, “In Venice they do let God see the pranks”.
This makes Othello dependent upon Iago for cultural guidance making Othello think that his wife is capable of cheating as he is not from the same culture. Iago makes Othello question his judgement over Desdemona whilst enhancing his jealously. Othello is dependent upon Iago and Iago exploits this.

When talking about or to Desdemona, Othello’s language is rich and passionate and he uses poetic language, “My soul hath her content so absolute that not another comfort like to this succeeds in unknown fate”. Later on...
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