In the play Othello, the character of Othello has certain traits, which make him seem naive and unsophisticated, compared to many other people. This is why Iago, is able to manipulate him so easily. Iago told Roderigo, "O,sir, content you. I follow him to serve my turn upon him "(I, i lines 38-9). Iago is saying, he only follows Othello to a point, and upon reaching it he will not follow him any longer. This is the first sign of how deceitful Iago will be. Iago has his own evil agenda in mind and he will use his reputation of being "honest Iago" to influence Othello.
The Moor, as many Venetians call him, is of strong character. He is very proud and in control of every move throughout the play. The control is not only of power, but also of the sense of his being who he is, a great warrior. In Act I, Othello has runs into Brabantio, who has come to kill him, but before anything could happen Othello said, "Hold your hands, both of you of my inclining and the rest. Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter" (I, ii, lines 80-3). The power shown here is quite astounding. The nature of Othello's character is of a dark man. A dark man, not only because he is black, but also because his whole person is very mysterious. He is mysterious in that he believes there is magic brewing everywhere. With this dark side he is also very outgoing, and not very bright. It is almost too easy for Iago to trick him into believing that Desdemona is unfaithful. Though he doesn't reflect too much on his past, it is apparent that he has been very successful in many battles and earned the rank of general. The fact that he is supposed to be a experienced soldier and leader contradicts his actions of letting his jealous emotions destroy his life.
For all the dangers and encounters he has been involved in, this man is still naive of the corruptness of other individuals. Othello has a trusting nature that will bring about his downfall. He put his trust in Iago during times of war and during Othello's marriage to Desdemona. Although this wasn't very bright of Othello, even if he was not as naïve or more cynical, it still would have been hard for him to discover that Iago was lying. Everyone considered Iago as honest, and it would be out of character for Othello to believe any different. Othello is unable to distinguish Iago's appearance from his true nature. For example, while in the council chamber Othello had told the Duke, "So please your grace, my ancient; A man he is of honesty and trust. To his conveyance I assign my wife, With what else needful your good grace shall think, To be sent after me" (I, iii, lines 284-8).
The control over any situation is one Othello's strong characteristics. Through the whole first act you can picture a powerful man with natural leadership ability, which makes it hard to believe that he would go to extremes because he is jealous. For example, when Lodovico had witnessed Othello hit Desdemona, he said:
"Is this the noble Moor whom our full Senate
Call all in all sufficient? Is this the nature
Whom passion could not shake? whose solid virtue
The shot of accident nor dart of chance
could neither graze nor pierce" (IV, i, lines 264-8)?
While Iago, being the honest man he is, answers:
"He's that he is, I may not breathe my censure.
What he might be (if, what he might, he is not)
I would to heaven he were" (IV, i, lines 270-2).
Another place where Shakespeare shows Othello taking control over
a situation is when Cassio and Montano are fighting after Roderigo antagonized him. These words Othello said are important now, but they will be more important later when he is alone with Desdemona in their bedroom. He will say:
"Now, by heaven,
My blood begins my safer guides to rule,
And passion, having my best judgement collied,
Assays to lead the way. If I once stir
Or do but lift this arm, the best of you
Shall sink in my rebuke" (II, iii, lines 203-8).
Again it is strange that a man who so obviously commands respect can be led astray so easily.
When the same man is brought hears from "honest Iago" that his wife may be having an affair he does not look for any substantial proof. He almost instantly believes Iago because of his outward appearance of being honest. Not only does Othello believe every word that comes out of Iago's mouth, he takes Iago's advice about killing Desdemona and Cassio believing that the ideas are his own. Iago's skillful manipulation of Othello is made easier by the fact that Othello is not completely sure that Desdemona loves him. Iago has been in many battles and through wars with Othello while Desdemona is his new wife. The fact that Othello trusts Iago is not remarkable, but the fact that he would kill his wife and close friend without any proof is foolish. Othello didn't really know Desdemona before they were married. Othello said, "She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them"(I,iii, lines 166-7). This man had really fallen in love with someone whose life was boring and needed adventure.
Once the seed of doubt has been planted into Othello's mind, he tries to recall any of Desdemona's actions which would foreshadow the behavior that Iago was describing. He saw for himself the deception of Desdemona toward Brabantio and remembered the words he had said to him:
"Look to her, Moor, if thou has eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee"
(I, iii, lines 286-7).
When Othello has been fed information about Desdemona's infidelity from Iago in Act III scene iii, he cannot take any more so he asks Iago to leave in which he does. Upon returning, Iago continues to enforce his previous statements and Othello seems not bothered for he replies, "Fear not my government" (III, iii, 256).
That is the kind of response one would expect from the character that Othello is portrayed as, he causally dismisses any thought that Desdemona would cheat on him. However, he follows that statement by saying "This fellow's of exceeding honesty, And knows all qualities with a learned spirit of human dealings." Just as Iago has planned, Othello is having second thoughts within moments of dismissing the possibility that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio.
After realizing he had been tricked into believing the lies of Iago, Othello could not handle the anguish of knowing he had murdered his wife for jealousy instead of for justice. This devastation in Othello's character brought the strong warrior back into the scene. At this point, he becomes his own judge, jury, and executioner. He tells the people around him "I have done the state some service and the know't. I pray you in your letters that When you shall these unlucky deeds relate speak of me as I am nothing extenuate" he continues to say
"Then you must speak of one that loved not wisely but too well" (V, ii, line 344).
After the speech is finished he carries out his sentence, taking his sword and stabbing himself. He then says: "I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, Killing myself, to die upon a kiss" (V, ii, line 359-60).
Throughout the play Shakespeare is trying to convey the message that people are not always what they seem to be. In trying to establish his message, Shakespeare's contradicts Othello's character on numerous occasions. While Othello had an outward appearance of darkness he was light or good in reality. Carrying innocence to the point of naiveté. Characteristics that would have made it nearly impossible for Othello to be a good leader. On the other hand Iago had an outward appearance of light when he was dark or evil in reality. Othello's inability to distinguish Iago's appearance from his nature is what brought about his downfall.