Gotthold Ephraim Lessing once said“People are not always what they seem to be”, suggesting that there can be a more profound or hidden value 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 similar to those misleading individuals. For a character like him, it is simple to manipulate and deceive others. Iago is seen as an honest man, but behind his mask, he is genuinely a manipulative villain, fabricating chaos and causing trouble to other characters to bring about their downfall. Manipulation is an 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 others.Iago is able to successfully manipulate Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello by exploiting their fatal flaws to bring about their downfall.
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 love for Desdemona made him vulnerable to Iago's manipulation because it made him believe anything Iago said in hopes of getting her.Firstly, Iago manipulates Roderigo only to have his fortune. He convinces Roderigo that his fortune will be given to Desdemona expressing his love to her, however, Iago being a cunning character 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 tricking 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 he twists his weakness, so he can eventually benefit. Iago tells Roderigo that after Desdemona gets bored with Othello, her first choice will be Cassio, this infuriates Roderigo and develops 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 a love affair and orders, Roderigo, to kill Cassio. Rodrigo, being completely heartbroken is reluctant in the beginning, he listens to Iago once he 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 dupes Roderigo to kill Cassio, achieving his goal, however, Roderigo eventually ends up dying by Iago.Moreover, Roderigo was truly desperate to get with Desdemona which is why he listened to Iago. He promised Roderigo that Desdemona would be his. Roderigo thoroughly believed Iago which indicates that he trusts Iago to a significant extent. Roderigo is truly devoted to Desdemona and extremely gullible that he will believe anything Iago says in hopes of getting her. Therefore, Roderigo is Iago’s pawn, controlled by his desire for Desdemona. Iago exploits Roderigo's obsession with Desdemona by lying to and misleading him to benefit himself and to ruin others along the way.
Secondly, Cassio was another victim who was successfully manipulated by Iago. Cassio is an inexperienced Venetian soldier who took on the position of lieutenant. Iago, being jealous, took advantage of Cassio because he was chosen over Iago to become lieutenant. He took advantage of Cassio’s loyal and trusting nature by feigning to be his friend while misleading him in the wrong direction. Initially, Iago forced Cassio to drink, eventually getting him intoxicated so that he can 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 position as lieutenant. Cassio, losing his rank as lieutenant had fulfilled one of Iago's major goals. Iago could maintain his fake sincerity and loyalty to Cassio while at the same time plot his destruction. In addition, Iago tells Montana that Cassio is a drinking addict just to ruin his reputation. 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 purposely lied about Cassio to destroy his reputation in spite of appearing to be his friend. He wanted Cassio to be stripped away from his status of a renowned lieutenant because Othello choose him to become lieutenant over Iago. Iagois extremely jealous of Cassio 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 desperation to win back the rank of Lieutenant, advises him to seek Desdemona’s help as shemight be able to persuade Othello to giveCassio back his position. 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 wants Cassio to talk to Desdemona so that he can spread lies about Cassio and Desdemona having an affair and arouse suspicions of Desdemona's affair in Othello's eye. 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 misleads Cassio by taking advantage of his trusting personality and by giving him bad advice.
Lastly, Iago uses Othello’s doubts to bring about his downfall. Othello is a renowned general in the Venetian army who is considered as an outcast, being a black man in a white society. Iago manipulates Othello by suggesting that Desdemona is disloyal to him 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 and race, as opposed to Othello who is older, black and unattractive. He caused Othello to feel disturbed as he told him that Desdemona would prefer a Venetian man rather than him and convinced Othello that she was 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 had betrayed her own father and is probably going to to betray her husband, Othello as well. Furthermore, Iago manipulates Othello to believe that Cassio is not worthy of being a lieutenant so that Iago can ultimately replace him. Iago sets up a staged fight to get 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 manipulated Othello effectively as he made him believe Iago’s words over his loyal lieutenant, Cassio. Cassio was set up by Iago to fight Roderigo who had got him drunk. As a result of being intoxicated, Cassio could not 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 turn him into amonster against Cassio and Desdemona. Thus, Iago plays with Othello's mind by planting seeds of doubt.
In conclusion, manipulation can be seen as a strong 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 that there are limits, 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.