October 9, 2013
No matter the era, being honorable, loyal, and respected has and still are very important trait we strive to gain. Often, throughout one’s upbringing we are instilled and demonstrated how to live honorably, but rarely are we warned about betrayal and how to surpass it. People are quick to judge each other based on their actions, but fail to examine the events that lead to the outcome. A perfect example, is demonstrated in Shakespeare’s play Othello, where trust is used as the main key to destroy a man’s reputation. Trust is the foundation in any relationship however, as the characters in Shakespeare’s play Othello discover, being too trusting can be deadly.
Cassio, a lieutenant appointed by Othello, the General of Venice, is a worthy and diligent man, although Iago, a secret villain, believes otherwise. Iago feels he is more deserving of this position and Othello should of chosen him instead. Although, indeed demonstrates Othello’s knowledgeable judgment. For this reason Iago misleads Cassio into unknowingly discredit himself, “Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” (Act 2, Scene 3). Iago talks Cassio into drinking more wine than he can handle, which then starts a foolish brawl against Montano, governor of Cyprus. Othello sees Cassio’s conduct as unbecoming of a lieutenant, and strips him from his rank entirely. Cassio’s trust in Iago steers Othello into doubting his judgment and firing Cassio.
Othello is the almighty, respected, and victorious General of the Venetian forces, but finds himself defeated in his most important battle. Othello past triumphs are proof of his strength and reputation, “For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith” (Act I, Scene 3). Othello loyalty to the people of Venice is shown throughout the play, and the trust he has for his army is undeniable. Iago, his right-hand man, sees him as an unworthy man. Iago has fought side by side to Othello for years, and Othello trusts him with his life. Iago has built up hatred so deep and devious against Othello, and frames numerous characters in order to drive Othello to insanity. Iago uses the trust Othello’s has instilled in him as his main source to bring him down so thoroughly. I also believe Othello’s jealousy and insecurity are helpful tools to Iago when planning out his defeat. I agree with scholar A.C. Bradley, “Othello is, in one sense of the word, by far the most romantic figure among Shakespeare's heroes; and he is so partly from the strange life of war and adventure which he has lived from childhood”(Othello’s Jealousy). Othello is perceived a strong and courageous warrior, but he’s unquestionably a hopeless romantic. Iago stirs up Othello’s firing passion by telling him Desdemona, his wife has cheated on him with Cassio. Iago frames Desdemona and Cassio into having an affair, using a handkerchief, which Othello gave to Desdemona signifying their love, and secretly places in Cassio’s possession for Othello to discover. When Othello finds out that Cassio has possession of the handkerchief he kills Desdemona, without even asking her about the accusation. He trusts Iago so much, even above his wife and anyone else’s opinion on the matter. Iago plays out his plan so perfectly that Othello falls for it so gullibly, showing him to be weak and a murder. Othello’s trust in Iago is the cause of Desdemona’s wrongful death.
Iago’s wife, Emilia, also falls under his devious act, and trusts him even though deep down she knows he’s mischievous and deceitful. When Emilia discovers Desdemona’s handkerchief, she brings it to Iago after he’s asked to steal it from her in the past, “No, but she let it drop by negligence And to th’ advantage, I being here, took’t up. Look here it is” (Act 3, Scene 3). After Emilia discovers Iago’s intentions to frame Desdemona, she stands up to him but like Julie Kranzberg states, “Although Emilia could have done more to stop Iago from taking the handkerchief, being a woman, she probably did as much as she could without suffering consequences”(Women in Othello). Women weren’t able to voice their opinion and be heard like we are now. They saw women with little importance and it was customary to obey men without question. Although, Emilia was more outspoken, strong, and independent compared to Desdemona. In the end she did what she thought to be correct and betrayed her husband. She brought to light what he had done, after discovering he used her to carry out his plan to begin with.
Roderigo, a naïve and deceitful man, whom Iago uses as a puppet in effort to steal his money to execute the premeditated arrangements to bring Othello down, with belief that Desdemona will love him instead. Iago plays Roderigo for a fool throughout the play, until his death. Iago foolishly convinces Roderigo that all of his doings will destroy Othello and bring Desdemona to him, since he secretly loves her. Roderigo is the one who tells Desdemona’s father that she’s married Othello, because Iago saw it necessary. Roderigo starts the fight between Cassio and Montano, which results in Cassio being fired, another advantage for Iago. Roderigo stabs Cassio, an order from Iago, but he fails in that Cassio is wearing armor and comes back and kills him. Roderigo entrusts Iago with his money and vulnerability, which takes him to his deathbed, because of his blind gullibility.
Othello murders his wife Desdemona and even then she covers up his doing by saying she committed suicide. After all is said and done, Desdemona’s love and respect for Othello, shows in her false confession at the peak of her death, “Nobody. I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. Oh, farewell!” (Act 5, Scene 2). She trusts Othello till the end and permits him to kill her, she could have stopped him, but instead lies there and let’s Othello unfairly murder her. Othello’s jealousy drives him to murder his wife, and when he discovers the truth from Emilia, he kills himself, “I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss” (Act 5, Scene 2).
This tragic story shows how trust is misconstrued and used against one another to reveal weakness and vulnerability. After bringing to light all the betrayal and the final outcome of all the characters in Shakespeare’s play Othello, gave me a new and broader perspective of each character. For instance, Othello was described as an unworthy liar, although he did murder Desdemona, he killed himself in guilt. I still believe Othello was an honorable general till the end of the play. Iago played the role of a respectful and trustworthy friend and in truth was only a devious mastermind who used everyone’s weakness’s as his fuel to play out his plan to destroy Othello’s reputation, in return was imprisoned after his wife, Emilia, ratted him out. In the end, Othello’s trustful character, puts his entire confidence in Iago’s perceived honesty, and kills his wife and himself in guilt. That goes to show, you can never trust anyone more than your own judgment or intuition.