The Villain from Venice
Would you kill the love of your life if someone told you she was cheating on you? In the play, “Othello” that is exactly what happens when a husband is deceived into thinking his wife is cheating on him. The play, “Othello” is set in Cyprus and Venice. In the play, Iago attempts to destroy the marriage of Othello and Desdemona. Iago is a villain, who will not stop until he sees Othello utterly ruined and him in his place. Honesty is one of the major themes of, “Othello”. Although there are a lot of characters in the play that aren’t honest, Iago is by far the most dishonest character in, “Othello”. Due partly to fact that the other characters are so trusting of Iago, he is able to use that to be dishonest and manipulate of other characters to exact revenge upon Othello.
Aside from being dishonest, Iago is also a character who is completely immoral and uses other’s weakness to manipulate them into doing what he wants. From the very beginning Iago takes advantage of Roderigo’s ignorance to help himself. In Iago’s soliloquy after telling Roderigo to, “put money in thy purse” he states, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor” (Act 1,3, 367-370). In other words Iago is using Roderigo to string him along like a puppet for his own amusement and to make himself richer. Roderigo doesn’t catch on and believes that Iago’s main goal is to aid him in getting Desdemona, but he is clearly being manipulated. Lee Jamieson the author of numerous books and articles about theater believes the relationship between Iago and Roderigo is clear sign of Iago’s dishonest ways. He states in his article, “Iago double crosses all the characters who consider him their friend. The character he manipulates the most is, Roderigo, a character who he has colluded with throughout the play. He uses Roderigo to perform his dirty work and without him, would not have been able to discredit Cassio in the first place”(Jamieson). Iago discredits Cassio by bringing in Roderigo back into his quest for revenge. He tries to get Cassio fired from the position of lieutenant, a position he originally wanted to obtain. Iago manipulates Cassio into getting drunk then stages a fight between Roderigo and Cassio. He even goes as far as to try to make Cassio worse by lying, telling Montano that he gets drunk regularly. “Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep.
He’ll watch the horologe a double set,
If drink rock not his cradle”(Act II, 3, 110-113).
In other words, Iago is telling Montono, Cassio drinks every night before he sleeps otherwise he’ll stay awake all night and day. Upon Iago’s explanation of the situation Othello promptly fires Cassio from his position and Iago becomes more respected in Othello’s eyes. Roderigo is a prime example of how Iago uses people to fulfil his desires. Iago convinces Roderigo that he could win Desdemona’s love away from Othello and the only man that stands in the way is Cassio. In this way when he plans to humiliate Cassio it seems as if he is doing it to help out Roderigo when, in actuality, he is seeking revenge on Cassio for taking his position.
One of the main reason Iago is so successful at having his away with other is because they are too naïve to realize that he is taking advantage of them. Cassio still comes to Iago for advice after Iago snitches him out and gets him fired. He still trusts him enough to ask for advice on how to get his job back, the very job that Iago is responsible for making him lose. When Iago gives him this advice he is grateful and confident in Iago’s honesty. “You advise me well” (Act II,3, 292). Iago is so manipulative he even manages to manipulate his wife into dishonesty. He incorporates Emily’s participation into his plan to make Othello suspicious of Cassio and Desdemona’s relationship. He also continuously tries to convince Emily to steal the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona. When Desdemona drops the handkerchief Emily gives it to Iago without pursuing what he was going to use it for. Iago drives the idea of him being an honest man to the point where he manipulates others into believing he is honest. When plotting to break up a happy marriage or seeking revenge on others he uses phrases such as, “As honest as I am”, “As I am an honest man”, and “in the sincerity of love and honest kindness”. None of these phrases show the true feelings of Iago. In fact in Act I scene I he tells Roderigo of how only a fool acts honest and he suggests putting oneself before honesty, which is exactly what he does. Others begin to view Iago as an honest man, especially Othello. He is described by Othello as “a fellow of exceeding honesty”, Cassio claims to never have met a Florentine so kind and honest. In fact, Othello tells the governor that Iago is a man of honesty and trust and even puts his wife in Iago’s hands while he is away. Iago uses this trust to his advantage. “He holds me well;
the better shall my purpose work on him” (1.3, lines 391-392). Iago uses Othello’s trust to exact revenge upon him for not giving him the job he wanted and sleeping with his wife, which was actually an unlikely rumor. Due partly to fact that the other characters are so trusting of Iago, he is able to use that to be dishonest and manipulate other characters to exact revenge upon Othello. Although there are other characters in the play are not completely honest. For example Desdemona does not tell her father about her relationship with Othello, and Roderigo is always trying to steal Desdemona away from Othello. However, no one is as dishonest, amoral, and downright manipulative as Iago. Yet, oddly enough, Iago is praised for his honesty far more than any other character.
Jamieson Lee, “Iago Analysis, A Character Analysis of Iago from Othello”, www.shakespeare.about.com/od/Othello/a/Iago, About.com Shakespeare Education. undefined. . Web accessed May 11, 2014.