Gotthold Ephraim Lessing once said“People are not always what they seem to be”, suggesting that there can be a more profound or hidden meaning behind a person’s actions or appearance. Deceits are common in a world where nobody is considered to be perfect, everyone possesses terrible qualities, but many individuals cover their terrible intentions and character with a disguise. In Shakespeare’s play, Othello, the character Iago is not any distinct from those misleading individuals. For a character like him, it is simple to manipulate and deceive others. Iago is seen as an honest and wise man, but behind his mask, he is genuinely a deceptive and manipulative villain, fabricating chaos and causing trouble to other characters for revenge. Manipulation is a very influential force that is often driven by malice and jealousy. It can cause a person to act irrationally and without regret. As a result, this can inevitably bring out the downfall of a character.Iago manipulates the people around him by taking advantage of their weaknesses. He exploits Roderigo’s love for Desdemona, persuades Cassio under the disguise of their friendship, and plays with Othello’s mind by planting seeds of doubt. By doing this, he is successful in manipulating Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello.
To begin with, Iago took advantage of his relationship with Roderigo and used his gullible nature for his benefit. Roderigo, who is a Venetian gentleman was genuinely in love with Desdemona, Othello’s wife. His obsession with her made him vulnerable to Iago's manipulation because it brought about him to believe anything Iago said in hopes of getting her.Firstly, Iago manipulates Roderigo only to have his fortune. He convinces Roderigo that the gold and jewels will be given to Desdemona putting forward Roderigo’s love to her while in actuality, Iago plans to keep it for himself. Iago states: “Thus do I ever make fool my purse” (Shakespeare, I.iii. 374). Iago compares Roderigo to an object solely to pay him money as he continues to make false agreements. Iago took advantage of Roderigo’s affection to Desdemona by conning him of his fortune. He manipulates Roderigo into thinking that he would deliver the jewels to Desdemona, but Iago, being the selfish character he is,plans to keep it for himself.Roderigo, who is blinded by love is completely oblivious to the truth that Iago is manipulating him for his benefit. In addition, Iago fills Roderigo with false hope and completely distorts the truth so his evil scheme can fall into place. When Desdemona is happy with Othello, Roderigo is in despair, feeling that he has lost her forever. Iago sees the weakness and motivation of Roderigo and convinces him that Desdemona’s infatuation will end as soon as she gets bored with Othello, thus allowing Roderigo to get with Desdemona. Iago states:“She’ll get bored with that old Moor” (II.i. 200), implying that Othello will get old and Desdemona will eventually find him boring. He also said that Desdemona would choose Cassio over him, fabricating lies. Iago is aware that Roderigo is gullible and he took advantage of that to further his deception. He knew Roderigo's weakness of being dedicated to Desdemona and of his obsession of winning her. Thus he exploits this weakness. With promises of reunification with Desdemona, Iago twists Roderigo's weakness so he can eventually benefit. He told Roderigo that after Desdemona gets bored with Othello, her first choice will be Cassio, infuriating Roderigo and developing his hatred for Cassio. Roderigo’s hatred will lead Iago’s evil plan down the right path. Iago convinces Roderigo of Cassio’s ill intentions and leads him to start a quarrel with Cassio which will, later on, bring out the demise of these characters. Furthermore. Iago convinces Roderigo that Cassio and Desdemona have an affair and orders, Roderigo, to kill Cassio. Rodrigo, being completely heartbroken is reluctant in the beginning, he relents once Iago insists that this could win him, Desdemona. Roderigo states: “I have no great devotion to the deed. And yet he hath given me satisfying reasons. Tis but a man was gone. Forth, my sword: he dies” (V.i. 8-10). Gullible Roderigo falls for Iago's deception and tries to kill Cassio. Iago is manipulating Roderigo to kill Cassio, in return for Desdemona’s heart.Roderigo believed that he would get Desdemona by killing Cassio, but yet again he was tricked. The only person who benefited from this cunning plan is Iago himself as he manipulates Roderigo to kill Cassio, achieving his goal. However, Roderigo ends up dying by Iago. Moreover, Roderigo was truly desperate to get with Desdemona which is why he listened to Iago. Iago promised Roderigo that Desdemona would be his. Roderigo thoroughly believed Iago which indicates that he trusts Iago to a significant extent. Roderigo is extraordinarily gullible and devoted to Desdemona that he will believe anything Iago says in hopes of getting her. Therefore, Roderigo is an instrument in Iago’s schemes, controlled by his blind desire for Desdemona. Iago exploits Roderigo's obsession with Desdemona by lying to and misleading him to benefit himself and also to ruin others along the way.
Secondly, Cassio was another victim who was successfully manipulated by Iago. Cassio is a young and inexperienced soldier who took on the position of lieutenant. Iago, being jealous, took advantage of Cassio because he was chosen over Iago to become lieutenant. Iago capitalised on Cassio’s trusting nature by pretending to be his friend while secretly misleading him in the wrong direction. Initially, Iago forced Cassio to drink, getting him intoxicated to cause a disturbance. Iago used Cassio’s weakness of liquor to trap him into his scheme since he was aware ofCassio’s “very poor and unhappy brains for drinking” (III.ii.112). The excess amount of wine caused Cassio to become intoxicated which led him into a brawl with Roderigo. When Othello found out that Cassio had caused a fight, Othello immediately demotes Cassio from his high-ranking position as lieutenant. Cassio, losing his rank as lieutenant had fulfilled one of Iago's major goals. Iago was able to maintain his fake sincerity and loyalty to Cassio while at the same time plot his destruction.Cassio, having just been demoted exposes him to Iago’s schemes. In addition, Iago also lies to Montana by telling him that Cassio is a drinking addict. Iago said to Montano: “Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep. He’ll watch the horologe a double set. If drink rock, not his cradle, He’ll watch the horologe a double set” II.iii.115-118).Iago intentionally lied about Cassio to diminish his reputation in spite of appearing to be Cassio’s friend. He wanted Cassio to be stripped away from his status of a renowned lieutenant because Othello chooses Cassio to become lieutenant over him. Iago envy's Cassio so much that he’ll do anything to bring him down. Furthermore, After Cassio was dismissed, from his position, he was primarily concerned with his reputation. Iago, recognising Cassio’s vulnerabilities and desperation to win back the rank of Lieutenant, he advises Cassio to seek Desdemona’s help as she might be able to persuade Othello to give the lieutenant position back to Cassio. Iago states to Cassio:
Our general's wife is now the general: may say so in this respect, for that he hath devoted and given up himself to the contemplation, mark, and denotement of her parts and graces: confess yourself freely to her; importune her help to put you in your place again: she is of so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested: this broken joint between you and her husband entreat her to splinter; and, my fortunes against any lay worth naming, this crack of your love shall grow stronger than it was before. (II.iii.235-240).Iago gives Cassio hope to get his position back by telling him to plead to Othello’s wife. Iago wants Cassio to talk to Desdemona in private so that he can arouse suspicions of Desdemona's infidelities in Othello's eyes which will lead to Cassio’s downfall. Cassio is entirely unaware of Iago's plans to plot his destruction, and he thinks that Iago is a kind friend as he offered him help. In fact, Iago is satin in disguise, taking an evil advantage of Cassio’s trusting nature. Iago manages to turn honest and dependable Cassio into his puppet. He manipulates Cassio by taking advantage of his trusting personality and leading him down the wrong path by giving him bad advice.
Lastly, Iago uses Othello’s insecurities as a method to bring about his downfall. Othello is a renowned general in the Venetian army. He is considered as an outcast, being a black man in a white society. Iago manipulates Othello by suggesting that Desdemona is unfaithful to Othello as she prefers only people of her ‘type’ and that Othello, is not considered her type. Iago states: “As, to be bold with you, Not to affect many proposèd matches. Of her clime, complexion, and degree, Whereto we see in all things nature tends” (III.iii 232-236),implying that Desdemona would likely prefer Cassio, who is similar in age, race, and class, as opposed to Othello who is older, black and unattractive. Iago caused Othello to feel disturbed as he told him that Desdemona would prefer a Venetian man rather than him and also convinced Othello that she is having an affair with Cassio which fuels Othello’s jealousy and eventually leads to Cassio’s demise. Iago also uses Desdemona's past to convince Othello of her affair with Cassio. Iago states “She did deceive her father, marrying you, And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks, She loved them most” (III.iii. 210-213). He hints that Desdemona, having betrayed her father, is very likely to betray Othello which infuriates him. Furthermore, Iago manipulates Othello to believe that Cassio is not fit to be a lieutenant so that he can ultimately replace him. This staged fight is the first step of Iago getting revenge on both Othello and Cassio for denying him his promotion. With Othello stopping the ongoing fight, he now thinks Cassio has lost his senses: "How comes it, Michael, you are thus forgot?" (II.iii.188).Iago was able to manipulate Othello effectively as Othello was able to believe Iago’s words over his loyal lieutenant, Cassio. Cassio was set up by Iago to fight Rodrigo who had got him drunk. As a result of being intoxicated, Cassio was not able to stand up for himself and tell his side of the story and was soon demoted from his rank as lieutenant. To sum it all up, Iago takes advantage of Othello's self-doubt to brutalise him, making him into a monster against Cassio and Desdemona. Thus, Iago plays with Othello's mind by using his self-doubt against him.
In conclusion, manipulation can be seen as a very influential force that is often driven by jealousy. It can cause a person to act irrationally and without regret. As a result, this can inevitably bring out the demise of many characters. Jealous Iago exploits each character’s weakness to succeed in his bright plans against them. Roderigo’s naive personality, Cassio trusting nature, and doubtful Othello, all fall for Iago’s lies, showing his deceitful nature and ability to manipulate others. Iago used the trust he earned from his victims to construct the ultimate plan for revenge for not getting the position of lieutenant. Manipulative people like Iago do not understand the concept of boundaries, they are relentless in the pursuit of their desires and have no regard of who suffers from their actions.Iago is a two-sided character who masks his true intentions in the hopes of bringing others down.