Othello - I Am Now What I Am Term Paper

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"I am not what I am." What is Iago? -- as distinct from what he pretends to be -- and what are his motives?

In Shakespeare's, Othello, the reader is presented the classic

battle between the deceitful forces of evil and the innocence of good.

It are these forces of evil that ultimately lead to the breakdown of

Othello, a noble venetian moor, well-known by the people of Venice as

a honourable soldier and a worthy leader. Othello's breakdown results

in the muder of his wife Desdemona. Desdemona is representative of

the good in nature. Good can be defined as forgiving, honest,

innocent and unsuspecting. The evil contained within Othello is by no

means magical or mythical yet is represented by the character Iago.

Iago is cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting. He uses these

traits to his advantage by slowly planning his own triumph while

watching the demise of others. It is this that is Iago's motivation.

The ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil. Not only is it in

his own nature of evil that he suceeds but also in the weaknesses of

the other characters. Iago uses the weaknesses of Othello,

specifically jealousy and his devotion to things as they seem, to

conquer his opposite in Desdemona. From the start of the play, Iago's

scheming ability is shown when he convinces Roderigo to tell about

Othello and Desdemonda's elopement to Desdemona's father, Brabantio.

Confidentally Iago continues his plot successfully, making fools of

others, and himself being rewarded. Except Roderigo, no one is aware

of Iago's plans. This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man

loyal to his superiors. The fact that Othello himself views Iago as

trustworthy and honest gives the evil within Iago a perfect

unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity to get to

Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse.

He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with

Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is this

jealousy and the ignorance of Othello that lead to the downfall of

Desdemona; the one truely good natured character in the play.

As the play opens we are immediately introduced to the

hostility of Iago against Othello. Iago has been appointed the

position of servant to Othello instead of the more prestigous position

of lieutenant. Michael Cassio has been appointed this position. Iago

feels betrayed because he considers him self more qualified than

Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Iago then foreshadows his plans for

Othello to Roderigo, "O, sir, content you. / I follow him to serve my

turn upon him (Act I, Scene I)". Iago already realizes that Othello

thinks about him as an honest man. Roderigo is used by Iago as an

apprentence and someone to do his "dirty" work. Roderigo is naively

unsuspecting. As the play shifts from Venice to Cyprus there is an

interesting contrast. Venice, a respectful and honourable town is

overshadowed by the war torn villages of Cyprus. It could be said

that Venice represents good or specfically Desdemona and that Cyprus

represents evil in Iago. Desdemona has been taken from her

peacefullness and brought onto the grounds of evil. Iago commits his

largest acts of deceit in Cyprus, fittingly considering the

atmosphere. Ironically, the venetians feel the Turks are their only

enemy while in fact Iago is in hindsight the one man who destroys

their stable state. Act II Scene III shows Iago's willing ability to

manipulate characters in the play. Iago convinces Montano to inform

Othello of Cassio's weakness for alchohol hoping this would rouse

disatisfaction by Othello. Iago when forced to tell the truth against

another character does so very suspiciously. He pretends not to

offend Cassio when telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved

in, but Iago secretly wants the worst to become of Cassio's situation

without seeming responsible. Cassio is relieved of his duty as

lieutenant. With Cassio no longer in the position of lieutenant, this

gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively interact with and

manipulate Othello. By controlling Othello, Iago would essentially

control Desdemona.

To reach Desdemona directly is unforseeable for Iago

considering that Othello is superior to him. It is for this reason

that Iago decides to exploit Othello. If Iago can turn Othello

against his own wife he will have defeated his opposition. Act III

Scene III, is very important because it is the point in the play where

Iago begins to establish his manipulation of Othello. Cassio feels

that it is necessary to seek the help of Desdemona in order to regain

his position of lieutenant and therefore meets with her to discuss

this possibility. Iago and Othello enter the scene just after Cassio

leaves, and Iago witfully trys to make it look like Cassio left

because he does not want to be seen in the courtship of Desdemona.

Iago sarcastically remarks :

Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it

That he would steal away so guilty-like,

Seeing your coming.

(Act III, Scene III)

When Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to strengthen

Othello's views of honesty and trust towards him by saying ironically,

"Men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would they

might seem none! " (Act III, Scene III). This cleverness by Iago

works upon one of the tragic flaws of Othello. Othello has a tendency

to take eveything he sees and everything he is told at face value

without questioning the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would

pretend to be something they are not, while in fact that is the exact

thing he represents. Finally, after hearing the exploits of Iago and

witnessing the events surrounding Cassio, Othello for the first time

is in conflict about what is the truth. This is the first stage of

Iago's scheme to control Othello. As Emilia becomes suspicious about

Othello's development of jealousy, Desdemona defends her husband by

blaming herself for any harm done. This once again shows Desdemona's

compassion and willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband.

Othello begins to show his difficulty in maintaining his composure :

Well, my good lady. O, hardness to dissemble --

How do you, Desdemona?

(Act III, Scene IV)

Act IV, Scene I is a continuation of the anxiety and indifference

Othello is under going. Iago takes advantage of this by being blunt

with Othello about his wife Desdemona. Iago suggests that she is

having sexual relations with other men, possibly Cassio, and continues

on as if nothing has happened. This suggestions put Othello into a

state of such emotional turmoil that he is lost in a trance. Iago's

control over Othello is so strong now that he convinces him to

consider getting rid of Desdemona and even suggests methods of killing

her. Iago, so proud of his accomplishments of underhandedness :

Work on.

My med'cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught,

And many worthy and chaste dames even thus,

All guiltless, meet reproach.

(Act IV, Scene I)

Othello in this state commits his first act of violence against

Desdemona by hitting her. This as a result of Desdemona's mention of

Cassio. This shows now Othello's other tragic flaw. He made himself

susceptable to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the

demise of others. By his actions Othello has isolated himself from

everyone except Iago. This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to

complete his course of action. Iago does not tolerate any

interference in his plans, and he first murders Roderigo before he can

dispell the evil that Iago represents. Finally, Othello, so full of

the lies told to him by Iago murders his wife. Desdemona,

representative of goodness and heaven as a whole blames her death on

herself and not Othello. Iago's wife, Emilia, becomes the ultimate

undoing of Iago. After revealing Iago's plot to Othello, Iago kills

her. This is yet another vicious act to show the true evil Iago

represents. Othello finally realizes after being fooled into murder :

I look down towards his feet -- but that's a fable

If that thou be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee.

(Act V, Scene II)

Iago says "I bleed, sir, but not killed", this is the final statement

by Iago himself that truely shows his belief in evil and that he

truely thinks he is the devil. That is the destruction of all that is

good. Hell over heaven and black over white.

Iago, as a representation of evil, has one major motivational

factor that leads him to lie, cheat, and commit crimes on other

characters. This motivation is the destruction of all that is good

and the rise of evil. This contrast is represented between Iago and

Desdemona. Desdemona is described frequently by other characters as

"she is divine, the grace of heaven" (Act II, Scene I), while Iago in

contrast is described as hellish after his plot is uncovered. Iago

uses the other characters in the play to work specifically towards his

goal. In this way, he can maintain his supposed unknowingness about

the events going on and still work his scheming ways. Iago's schemes

however at times seem to work unrealistically well which may or may

not be a case of witchcraft or magic. Iago's major mistake,

ironically, is that he trusted his wife Emilia and found that she was

not as trustworthy as he thought. Although not completely victorious

at the conclusion of the play, Iago does successfully eliminate the

one character representative of heaven, innocence, and honesty. Yet

"remains the censure of this hellish villian" (Act V, Scene II).

Finally, everything Iago pretended to be led to his demise : Honesty,

Innocence, and Love.

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