Othello - Deception and Vision

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Deception and Vision in Shakespeare’s Othello

Walter Scott once stated, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave... when first we practice to deceive” (Quotation). Scott’s statement is overwhelmingly evident in William Shakespeare's Othello. Deception is a reoccurring theme in Othello, that touches each character individually and on various levels. The theme that affects Othello directly is vision. Vision is the “ocular proof” that Othello demands from Iago, and how his actions are based on what he hears rather than what he sees and knows to be true. Our first introduction to deception in Othello commences with Iago's self-centered plan for revenge on Othello. With his masterful skill of language Iago is able to lead characters to question not only themselves but those closest to them. With the power of words and vision, Iago successfully deceives Roderigo and Othello.

Iago is ruthless as the cunning arch deceiver of Shakespeare's Othello, whose capacity for cruelty seems limitless (Write). Iago is intent on destroying the happiness of each character, for nothing more than his own satisfaction and revenge. He is intelligent and a master judge of peoples character. Iago's skill in building the trust others have for him ultimately becomes the tool with which he deceives them. The mysterious aspect of Iago is that he never reveals convincing proof that any terrible act has been committed upon him that is in any way proportional to the revenge and deceit he executes on others. Iago claims he is furious with Othello for promoting Cassio to second in command rather than himself. He also states that he fears Othello slept with his wife, “And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets/ He has done my office” (Oth. 1.3.430-431). Although these acts that would cause one to question their relationship and certainly cause pain, they are not worth taking lives over. Another example of Iago's power to deceive is in act four, scene one when Iago deceives Othello into thinking that Cassio talked of sexual relations with Desdemona when in reality Cassio and Iago were conversing about Bianca. That scene portrays how Iago is able to use peoples thoughts and suspicions against themselves. By letting others insecurities blossom fully without any clarification, Iago can watch the destruction and fallout around him.

Roderigo is unfortunately a gullible man whom Iago easily deceives. He is a simple pawn in Iago's plot (Yahoo). Roderigo is in love with Desdemona, Iago is aware of this, and uses this love to his advantage. Iago tells Roderigo of how he “[hates] the Moor” (Oth. 1.3. 409) and to, “put money in thy purse” (Oth. 1.3.386). With this money, Roderigo believes Iago to be buying gifts and sending them to Desdemona, although Iago is swindling Roderigo's money and jewels for his own profit. The constant deception of Roderigo by Iago, leads to the point that he hands all his wealth over to him. Roderigo comes to his senses and recognizes that Iago is deceiving him, “(By this hand I say 'tis very)/ scurvy, and I begin to find myself fopped in” (Oth. 4.2.225-226). To this statement, Iago simply convinces Roderigo that murdering Cassio will help his cause and win him Desdemona. Furthermore, Iago deceives Roderigo into committing his bloody deeds. By planting the thought of Desdemona and Cassio's love in Roderigo's mind, Iago is able to deceive and manipulate Roderigo into killing Cassio. Unfortunately for Roderigo this assassination of Cassio goes awry and ends with Roderigo being fatally wounded by “honest” Iago.

Iago's manner of deceiving Othello differs from the other characters deceit. He manages to deceive Othello through suggestions; rarely does Iago make direct statements when dealing with Othello. He poisons Othello's thoughts and creates ideas without ever implicating himself. When Iago sees Cassio and Desdemona together, he says to himself “Ha, I like not that” (Oth. 3.3.37). This provokes Othello to question Iago about what he...
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