It becomes prominent to individuals that human beings are far from representatives of moral perfection. A pattern of trivial lies can be observed within human evolution and civilization. While these lies may be harmless and sometimes beneficial depending on the given situation, they also have the potential to inflict colossal damage; especially if these lies are used to manipulate a fatal flaw within another person such as jealousy. Jealousy is a universal complex emotion that is typically depicted as a ‘green-eyed monster.’ It is a powerful idiom used within various forms of literature and art that personifies a creature who finds joy in the misfortune of others or grieves during another’s prosperity. The Shakespearean Tragedy, Othello, written by William Shakespeare, follows a man named Iago, who fabricates his appearance toward allies within the Venetian army to infiltrate their emotions and indirectly cause harm amongst themselves and relevant characters. Iago’s masterful art of deception through persuasive communication and use of distorted images facilitates the chain of events in Othello that thrives on the jealousy within himself and envy exerted from Roderigo and Othello, which ultimately leads to the play’s tragic ending.
Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, exhibits the deceptive behavior of Iago through his deliberate scheme to manipulate the feelings of jealousy within Othello, the main protagonist, and a nobleman named Roderigo. Iago blatantly explains to the reader that his intention is to use Roderigo’s envy of Othello and his marriage to Desdemona in attempt to further advance his malicious objective. Iago eventually feeds Roderigo with exaggerated features about Othello’s lieutenant, Michael Cassio, and false depictions of his relationship with Desdemona, to provoke Roderigo’s jealousy. He successfully persuades Roderigo that Cassio’s flirtatious charm would only hinder his chances of being with Desdemona and begins to suggest that a possible solution would be to eliminate that threat. Iago says to Roderigo in reference to Cassio,
Desdemona is directly in love with him…
the knave is handsome, young…
A pestilent complete knave, and the
women hath found him already…
They met so near with their lips that their breaths
embraced together (Shakespeare 2.1.240-82),
which indicates his use of dramatic, yet persuasive oral communication. Iago’s deceitful behavior is expressed through his friendly suggestion to Roderigo that he should follow the instructions to eradicate Cassio to cope with his emotional grief. However, as previously stated, it is evident that Iago has no genuine intention to help with Roderigo’s desire to elope with Desdemona, but rather to use his jealousy as a tool for his own satisfaction. Additionally, it becomes apparent that Iago resents Cassio because the young inexperienced soldier occupies the prestige of lieutenant, which Iago longs for. Therefore, Roderigo only serves as a primary component in his plan to reprimand Cassio of his position and replace him.
In addition to his misleading behavior toward Roderigo, Iago’s jealousy is concealed behind an intangible mask that he bears in the face of Othello. Iago incites Othello’s jealousy by implanting distorted images about Desdemona having an affair with Cassio to contribute to his madness. Since his endeavor is dependent upon the exploitation of Othello’s emotions leading to perform irrational actions, Iago upholds a false appearance that indicates honest signals of loyalty. After suggesting to Othello that Cassio is disloyal to him, Iago further advances Othello’s suspicion by fabricating a claim. Iago lies to Othello telling him,
There are kind of men
So loose of soul that in their sleeps will mutter
Their affair. One kind of this kind is Cassio.
In sleep I heard him say “Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves.” (Shakespeare 3.3.472-76)
Iago creates this false image to fortify Othello’s jealousy. Furthermore, he states that his doubt in Cassio’s loyalty is compelled by his love for Othello. In actuality, this was a tactic used only to reinforce his impression of a loyal and honest friend to Othello. He also stages physical proof by misplacing the handkerchief given to Desdemona from Othello that embodies their marriage, conscious that it would alter Othello’s emotions into menacing behavior and path the way toward his own downfall. Again, this suggests that Iago’s deceptive attitude flourishes on the insecurities and fears that other characters possess, which facilities the play’s sequence of events.
The two examples are complementary evidence that exhibits how Iago’s ability to induce both Roderigo and Othello with illusive behavior, fluctuates their feelings of jealously beyond reason. His choice of words, body language, and clever use of the handkerchief shelter his true intentions while conveying the idea that he is a noble man. As his deception earns the trust of both men, it essentially positions them in a state of vulnerability which allows Iago to directly manipulate their jeoaulusy into immoral actions. Conversely, the claim that Othello’s naive trust in the honesty of Iago’s words, leads to his downfall because it allows Iago to prey on his emotions, is in agreement with Shawn Smith’s (2008) article. In the article Smith mentions that, “Iago’s manipulation of “proof” as part of his Machiavellian rhetoric is a deception that preys not only on Othello’s idealistic faith in language and love, but on Othello’s faith in general.” The article titled, “Love, Pity, and Deception in Othello” suggests that Iago’s appeal through pity is a strategic method of persuasion because it uses both emotional language and visible signs to convey a false image.
As one of the seven deadly sins found in all humans, jealousy or its counterpart, envy, encompasses painful feelings concentrated on insatiable desires that serve as the foundation for possible immoral actions against others. If someone were to breach the jealousy within another person like Iago, they have the potential manipulate this emotion much like a well played knight, and inflict critical damage mentally or physically. The manipulation of persuasive language and distortion of reality through blatant lies can generate a negative contribution to the world. Iago’s deceiving form of speech is most powerful to the course of events within the play because it enables him to utilize a theoretical mask in order to withdraw Roderigo’s envy and fatal jealousy within Othello. While utilizing a mask to deceive others creates an opportunity to achieve what can’t be done in honest fashion, it only allows one to prevail temporarily. Although Iago’s actions did facilitate the downfall of Roderigo and Othello, his end goal to replace Cassio is terminated due to his accumulation of lies when the truth is exposed.
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