The theme of deception is one of the central themes shown throughout the play “Othello,” written by William Shakespeare. The idea of deception and deceiving is surrounded by the character of Iago, the mastermind behind all the deception. Through the character of Iago, the readers can visualize just how badly the doing’s of deception can effect and ruin those who are being deceived. Through this essay, I will explore how Iago effects the other characters throughout the play and show the consequences it had on them due to their flaws. The idea of deception is found early on in the play when Iago says, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him,” showing us that he is just using Othello’s trust and friendship for his own personal needs. Iago follows on by saying, “I am not what I am.” This clearly shows the readers what Iago’s true intentions are.
The ability to “seem something” but to “be something else” allows the readers to be manipulated into thinking that Iago is of an “honest” nature. However, Iago’s true intentions of deceiving everyone close to him allows us to see just how deceptive and manipulative Iago is. His level of betrayal clearly indicates that he is aligning himself with the devil by sneaking around and hiding secrets from those we consider his family and friends. This is because he goes out of his way to deceive and betray the other characters showing that Iago is the exact opposite to what he is known as “honest Iago” without anyone actually being aware of what is happening around them.
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Each of the characters in the play “Othello” is deceived in their own way, whether it be the plotting of seeds or manipulating emotions. Each of the character’s vulnerabilities is tested by Iago’s actions. One character that is constantly deceived and misleads by Iago’s words is Roderigo. Roderigo is a naive, young character who lets Desdemona’s love overrule all his thoughts and judgements. However, his downfall of being naively in love allows Roderigo to be an easy target for Iago by manipulating him into believing that money could buy Desdemona’s love. “Go to; farewell. Put money enough in your purse”, and as naive as Roderigo is, he replies by saying, “I’ll go sell all my land,” allowing Roderigo to think that he is on his side using his vulnerabilities against him to get what he wants.
Another character that is blindsided by Iago’s deception is Cassio. A young polite character that respects women and those who are close to him. Iago states why he hates Cassio in his soliloquy. He talks about why it is; he hates Cassio because he got the position he had wanted because he was more qualified. He uses Cassio as part of his plan to take Othello down. Iago does this by using his weak spot against him so that he can get him close enough to Desdemona that Othello starts to feel vulnerable about his relationship with his wife. By doing this, he takes something significant to Cassio, his reputation. This is what ultimately allows Iago’s plan to work; by doing this, he enables the seedings of doubt to start growing.
Another character that is blindsided by Iago’s deception is Cassio. A young polite character that respects women and those who are close to him. Iago’s hatred towards him getting the position he had wanted and worked hard for provokes Iago to deceive Cassio in anger. He uses Cassio as part of his plan to get him close enough to Desdemona to convince Othello that something is going on between them. By getting him drunk and persuading Cassio to think that Desdemona is the only person who can convince Othello into reinstating him, allowing Iago’s evil plan to unravel slowly. This is shown when Iago says, “Confess yourself freely to her, importune her help to put you in your place again, She is of free, so kind, so apt, so blest a disposition, that she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested”.
Iago is only successful in doing this because of Cassio’s downfall. His reputation is his downfall which allows Iago to manipulate his feelings but ultimately allows Iago to move onto the first seed plant. The character that is mostly effected by Iago’s deception is Othello. The change in this character is so significant that we can see a massive difference in not only the way Othello talks but also how he acts. Iago’s hatred towards Othello is clearly stated at the beginning of the play, where Iago states, “I hate the Moor,” showing us his true intentions. It is because of Othello’s insecurities and his lack of self-knowledge that allows Iago to manipulate and betray Othello so easily. After plotting his first seed, “Ha! I like no that”, the rest of Iago’s plan can run smoothly.
The change in Othello from a polite and noble character to an angry man fuelled with jealousy shows the readers just how successful Iago was at deceiving Othello, as well as how insecure Othello was about being an ‘outsider.’ The feeling of not deserving the position he has as well as a wife as good as Desdemona turns into his biggest flaw. Allowing Othello to believe that Desdemona was having an affair with his good friend Cassio. Iago plays the deception very well as he knows Othello’s vulnerabilities and what they are most insecure about. His knowledge of the other characters makes it easy for Iago to be so successful at deceiving. But it’s Iago’s own downfall that allows his evil plans to overpower his mind and judgements.
Emilia and Desdemona are the two women who are stuck in between all the deception. But it is only Emilia that overpowers the mind player Iago, beating him at his own game. On the other hand, Desdemona is the only character that remains the same even throughout the play. Her devotion as a loving wife to stand by her man is evident till her devastating death. She even blames herself for her own death, which shows that she believes she caused this even though she did nothing wrong.