Manipulation in William Shakespeare’s Othello

Category: Drama, Iago, Othello
Last Updated: 07 Apr 2020
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Manipulation in William Shakespeare’s “Othello” In William Shakespeare’s play “Othello”, almost every character, and even the audience, is manipulated at least once. Iago, the villain, is responsible for most of this betrayal. He is a master at the art of deception. He gains the trust of the other characters by posing as a concerned friend. When they confide in him, he uses their weakness against them. He treats each character differently, telling them what they want to hear. He is so cunning that they are unaware of the manipulation and, after each encounter, trust him even more.

With each lie, he moves closer to his goal of destroying Othello. Iago weaves an intricate web of deception. First, he targets Rodrigo. He preys on Rodrigo’s love for Desdemona and convinces him he can gain her affection if he helps him. Iago convinces Rodrigo that Desdemona will end her relationship with Othello if her father disapproves. Then, the two plot to involve Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. Iago speaks of how he will destroy Brabantio’s faith in his daughter when he says “Call up her father. Rouse him. Make after him; poison his delights” (1. 1. 70).

He hereby manipulated Rodrigo, Brabantio, Desdemona and Othello in one swoop, still appearing to be the trustworthy confidant. The theme is further demonstrated through Iago’s manipulation of Othello, his main target. He is upset with his superior for promoting Cassio over him and has heard rumors that Othello slept with his wife. So, he begins planting the idea that Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio in Othello’s head. Iago says “Look to your wife. Observe her well with Cassio” (3. 3. 211). He proceeds to gain Othello’s trust and cultivates his deceit.

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He tells Othello he will get proof from Cassio by letting him listen in on their conversation. Cassio speaks of is date with Bianca, but Iago leads Othello to believe they are talking about Desdemona. At one point, Iago even enlists his wife to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, which he uses to further convince Othello of her infidelity. When his manipulation results in Othello murdering his wife and finally committing suicide, Iago achieves his goal of vengeance. Iago manipulates each character through their individual weakness until his plan is complete.

He plays each person against each other for his agenda. Meanwhile he remains to be seen as the good guy. Blinded by their own inequities, Iago preys upon his unsuspecting victims and uses the as pawns in his elaborate plan to destroy Othello. They are easily manipulated by their trusted friend. Iago is so masterful in his deception at times even the audience is almost fooled by his misleading charm. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. "Othello. " Gioia, X. J. Kennedy and Dana. Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing 7th Edition. Boston: Peason, 2013. 1009-1102. print.

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Manipulation in William Shakespeare’s Othello. (2017, Apr 12). Retrieved from

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