Iago’s character is manipulative and treacherous as can be read in the famous quote, “Iago is most honest” (Shakespeare II.iii.7).
He is fond of implanting malice in even the most mundane, casual encounters. For instance, Iago plans to make a mountain out of the molehill that Cassio was able to briefly, hold hands with Desdemona while on board the ship. Iago is also chauvinistic for the most part of the play and appears to have a dislike for women in general as revealed by his frequent barrages of insults towards Emilia and Desdemona.
Iago’s general detest for women may come from the fact that he suspects Othello of having an affair with his wife. His thoughts are revealed in the play and there is constant revelation that he wants his revenge “wife for wife”. This reveals a concealed lust for Desdemona born out of his baseless jealousy. Iago continues his pursuit to ruin the relationship of Othello and Desdemona, as is witnessed in Iago’s speeches to Othello,Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee…–My life upon her faith! Honest Iago” (Shakespeare I, iii 333-5).
He also has a plan to lure Cassio into performing actions that would dishonor him and possibly cause Othello to rethink his promotion of Cassio, as Iago states of himself in this matter, “Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago: In following him, I follow but myself… But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at: I am not what I am” (Shakespeare I, I 63-71). Iago succeeds in this endeavor by subtly causing a commotion which causes Cassio to lose his composure and accidentally stab Montano, the governor. This costs Cassio his position as lieutenant.
While alone with Othello, Iago implies the possibility that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. Iago manages to persuade Othello to doubt Desdemona’s loyalty and love for him. He tells Othello to closely examine his wife’s actions when she is with Cassio. These are just among the many webs of lies and deceit that he manages weave in his attempts to settle scores with Othello and Cassio. Othello’s first gift to Desdemona was a handkerchief. This supposedly trivial object later becomes the piece of evidence that Iago uses to destroy Othello’s marriage.
One evening, as Desdemona and Emilia inform Othello that dinner is ready, Othello complains of a headache. Desdemona promptly offers her handkerchief to bind his head to relieve the pain. Othello comments that the handkerchief is too small and pushes it away. Desdemona unknowingly loses grip of the handkerchief as she and Othello walk out of the room. Emilia picks up the handkerchief, remembering that Iago had asked her a number of times to steal it, she is delighted at the prospect of surprising her husband.
At the same time as Iago was to plant Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s room, Othello who discovers his plot is infuriated and exclaims that he’d rather witness deception first hand than assume infidelity without conclusive evidence. At this point, Iago, ever the manipulator, manages to get his way again by fabricating another story that Cassio once called out Desdemona’s name in his sleep and that Cassio acted as if he were kissing Desdemona. Iago reinforced his claim by claiming to have seen Cassio wipe his beard with the handkerchief.
This enrages Othello and he vows to seek revenge on Cassio and Desdemona for the alleged infidelity. Once again, Iago succeeds and even manages to get promoted to lieutenant. In the play, Desdemona’s handkerchief is the symbol of faithfulness and later in the play the symbol of truth. All the speculations around Desdemona’s alleged relationship with Cassio has created a lot of trouble for Othello and Desdemona. Othello has become very unhappy and has begun mistreating Desdemona. One evening after dinner, Othello goes on a walk with Lodovico and sends Desdemona to bed.
As Desdemona gets ready, she and Emilia contemplate on how different her life would be like if she had not met Othello. Desdemona sings the “Willow” song, a song that she learned from her mother’s maid who sang the same song when the man she love left her. The “Willow” song is the symbol of acceptance of her fate that the man whom she loved had left her. Before telling Emilia about the story behind the “ Willow” song, she had remarked on the attractiveness of Lodovico. She also This suggests that after the bad things that have happened between Desdemona and her husband, committing adultery had somehow entered her mind.
She saw adultery as an option to distract her from the pain that her husband is neglecting and mistreating her. Iago has persuaded Roderigo to go after Cassio with the web of lies that he had weaved about Cassio and Desdemona’s alleged affair. Iago had once again managed to convince Roderigo with his lies to the point that Roderigo longed to kill Cassio. Roderigo stabbed Cassio in a brothel. When Othello hears Cassio’s cries of murder, Othello thinks that it is Iago who stabbed Cassio.
Othello is still unaware of Iago’s deception and he believed that Iago stabbed Cassio to carry out his revenge. This tragedy wrongly convinces Othello of the validity of Desdemona’s alleged unfaithfulness. He returns to the bedroom to kill her. Othello returns to the bedroom where Desdemona is sleeping soundly. He leans to give her one last kiss before he kills her. Desdemona awakens from the kiss and is frightened when Othello tells her to prepare to be killed. Othello tells her that he had discovered her affair with Cassio who had just been killed by Iago.
Before she could explain her side of the story, she breaks down in tears to weep for Cassio. This angers Othello all the more and begins to smother his wife. Emilia rushes to inform Othello that Cassio has killed Roderigo. When Othello admits that he has killed his wife and that Emilia keep silent about it. Emilia, afraid and confused calls for help. Montano, Graziano and Iago arrive at the scene. Little by little, Emilia uncovers her husband’s deceitfulness. Iago sensing the impending exposure of his evil deeds makes an attempt to silence Emilia with his sword.
Iago succeeds at stabbing his wife. Othello disbelievingly realizes his terrible mistake of not trusting his wife and killing her out of blind rage. Realizing that his life is now worthless without Desdemona, he takes his own life. Othello and Desdemona are the unfortunate victims of Iago’s irrational jealousy and treachery. Even Iago’s wife Emilia was not spared of the tragedy. Before Iago becomes conscious of the gravity of his actions, lives have been lost, too much harm has been done to the point that it is beyond repair.