“I have’t. It is engendered. Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.” (1.3 446-47). As Iago indicates, an evil tyrant may lurk in even the best of people, only looking for self-satisfaction and prosperity at whatever costs, exactly how Iago presents himself through Othello. Throughout the play, people are unaware of their surroundings enemies and mischievous plans at work, forgetting the saying, “keep friends close, and enemies even closer.” Iago’s jealously overwhelms him, masterminding a mischievous plan to have Othello kill Desdemona. Shakespeare demonstrates that those who manipulate others, convincing them to act dishonorably, are guiltier than those who actually perform the illicit action. Within the play, Shakespeare develops this idea through the characters, as Iago manipulates Desdemona, Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello.
Characters throughout Othello manipulate others to behave in ways they normally would not. Desdemona’s infatuation for Othello, for example, cannot be disregarded, and she must convince the Venetian senate as well as her father for approval of the marriage. In her speech before them, she pleads, “And I a heavy interim shall support / By his dear absence. Let me go with him” (1.3 293-94). Desdemona makes this statement as if she were to be miserable without him, convincing the senate so she can be with Othello. Not only does Desdemona have a way with words convincing her superiors, but also her beloved husband as well. Later in the play, when Othello removes Cassio of his military position due to irresponsible actions, it is Desdemona who begs Othello to give him a second chance, saying, “I have no judgment in an honest face. / I prithee call him back” (3.3 54-55). Her reasoning in doing so suggests she truly believes Cassio is a trustworthy man, and Othello can refuse her nothing. Manipulation shown above of characters throughout Othello exemplify in some way every person uses manipulation. Desdemona is not the only one using manipulation to her advantage, for Roderigo has hidden love for Desdemona, and Iago clearly sees this. Iago manipulates his friend Roderigo for his own personal gain. At the beginning of the play, Iago convinces Roderigo to sell his land to finance Iago’s personal expenses, and tells him, “Put money in thy purse” (1.3 382). These words rhetorically ring from Iago’s mouth throughout the play, manipulating Roderigo into giving Iago more money each time. As the play develops, Iago again convinces Roderigo into doing his dirty work, calling for him to spark anger in Cassio by telling him, “Do / you find some occasion to anger Cassio. . .” (2.1 288-89). By this example, Iago looks to be by no means a true friend, yet Roderigo is too idiotic to realize such dishonest acts perpetrated against him. With Iago only being concerned about himself, evidently people put themselves first over their friendships.
In particular, Cassio’s considerate nature towards others evidently leads to his downfall, for Iago manipulates his professional colleague Cassio to benefit his own career status, causing him to act foolishly, and attempts to ruin his reputation. Cassio’s gentle manners and affection for others may extend beyond typical politeness to Desdemona. Cassio speaks to Desdemona, grabbing hold of her hand as Iago watches, thinking to himself, “With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio” (2.1 183-84). Believing this to be more than a simple gesture of the conversation, Iago attempts to use this against Cassio later in the play, telling Othello lies that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. In contrast to Cassio’s love for other people, his inability to handle liquor makes him prone to unintelligent decisions, such as stabbing Roderigo and losing his military position. Concerned with his reputation, Cassio pleas to Iago, “Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation!” (2.3 181-82). Feeling helpless, Cassio looks to Iago and Desdemona for help, since Iago has considered being honest and Othello can refuse nothing to Desdemona. Due to Cassio’s negligence, he is too naïve to realize Iago is the mastermind behind everyone’s destruction.
With the manipulation of friends and colleagues, Iago does not feel complete satisfaction until destroying Othello, causing him to lash out and kill his beloved wife Desdemona. Othello’s rage against Desdemona, for example, extends beyond the thought that she is unfaithful, but also the building jealously Iago tricks him into feeling. As Iago fills Othello’s mind with lies and hatred, he tells him, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!” (3.3 195). Convinced Iago is an honest man never does Othello truly question his accountability. Unfortunately, later in the play, Othello allows his emotions to get the best of him, killing Desdemona by smothering her. In his conscious mind of being deceived, Othello indicates, “I will chop her to messes! Cuckold me?” (4.1 219). Feeling betrayed by his ever so faithful wife, Othello’s belief is that his decision is of justice and not revenge. Although some people say Othello is not vengeful, well-known literary scholar Lily B. Campbell disagrees, saying, “His mind is again centered on his own injury” (129). Campbell’s interpretation of Othello is quite accurate, for she also indicates, “revenge always cries for justice” (130), resulting in not only Desdemona’s death, but also those of Othello, Roderigo, Emilia, and Barbantio. Iago, who awaits trial for his horrific deeds, waits to be tortured for he refuses to speak. The dishonesty and manipulation Iago uses throughout the play unfolds, showing that his evil actions to make other people perform his dirty work make him guiltiest.
Iago presents himself to be a strong, loving, caring, and honest individual to everyone, all of which he uses as clever tactics to grow close to the people he wants to hurt, leaving his aggression and hate hidden. Iago looks to project the blame on everyone else, for they were the ones who committed such awful deeds; however, Iago proves himself guiltier than those committing the illicit action, for he persuaded them into believing lies. Perhaps manipulation is worse than murder itself.