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Othello is one of the classical literary masterpieces written by William Shakespeare. Known as the dark-skinned Moor of Venice (Encarta Encyclopedia, 2002), Othello is a story of the mighty warrior whose life turned into a tragic downfall as he was corrupted by suspicion and jealousy over his wife Desdemona and his new friend Cassio. Unknown to Othello, it was Iago, his evil lieutenant, who conspired against his happiness and domination. Though it has been said that every character has a great significance and plays an important role in every story, Iago has been one of the most affective despite him being the antagonist in the novel. His character is the main reason why major incidents in the novel took place.
This paper is aimed at analyzing the characters in the novel thereby coming up with the conclusion on everybody’s real motive and agenda in the whole novel.
Characters in the Novel
Othello: Othello can be admired for his bravery, courage, wisdom and tactful ways. However, he himself had a great contribution on his own tragic downfall. There was this part in the story where he had shown enough patient not to fight with Brabantio, the father of his wife Desdemona because he wanted to prove that he did not bewitched his wife and that it was actually love that bonded them as a couple. If he was wise enough and confident on the love he shared with Desdemona, he could not easily been manipulated and brainwashed by the evil Iago for him to believe that his friend and soldier Cassio and his wife was betraying him and that the two were having an affair. Othello was a victim himself.
He was a victim of the circumstances that Iago had made to destroy his trust to his wife, to his friend and even to himself. If he was able to know what’s playing in Iago’s mind earlier before he had done such tragic deed of killing Desdemona, then he could have saved her. He could as well save his reputation and self respect. He killed his wife to save his pride because the idea of Desdemona’s accused infidelity is unbearable for him. It was a threat to his own dignity. The worst part was that he did not only lose his pride. He lost his beloved wife, his own life and his own reputation. Nothing was left for him in this tragic story.
Though Othello was the main character in this literary masterpiece, a twenty percent attribution is fair enough for him. Never would a man desire to be in a shameful ending. He would never have wanted to kill his wife, lose his friend and destroy his own reputation if it was not because of the evil plans of Iago. If he was able to know Iago’s plans, he could have done something to save everything including Desdemona, his beloved wife, Cassio, his friend and his own life and honor (Characters of Othello, 2006).
Desdemona: Though she was a victim herself, and her life was taken by Othello, her own husband, her part on the tragic downfall in the story of Othello was much more significant. Desdemona was the subject of conflict between Othello and Cassio being used by Iago as he planned it that she was committing adultery. In classic stories, Eve was the reason of Adam’s committing sin, Delilah was the one responsible for Samson’s lost of his strength and his captivity. In Othello’s life, Desdemona was his Eve or Delilah for because of this woman, he was not able to see the truth but instead, he trusted the wrong accusation tailored by Iago that made him felt jealous to the extent of taking Desdemona’s life in his own life.
Though in contrary to the classic example I have mentioned in this paper, Desdemona is innocent of the accusation Iago tailored against her. What I am trying to point out is that, women, especially in the old society and culture was oftentimes the reason behind a man’s downfall. It was like men were losing their rationality no matter the masculine strength, bravery and wisdom.
Women has always been the weakness of men. On the other side, there is the saying that goes something like “ In every man’s success, there is a woman behind it”. Quite contradicting and ironic! The same twenty percent attribution is given to this character. The sad thing is that the feminine side of women sometimes lead her to being helpless and unable to defend herself and prove the her innocence (Characters of Othello, 2006).
Cassio: This character was another victim of circumstances. His deep admiration to Desdemona was the only reason why Iago managed to plant the root of suspicion against him with the intention of overthrowing him as lieutenant for him to get the position he had long for. He was a loyal friend and soldier to Othello but in the end he was seen as a threat and was even treated as a traitor. He was the fall guy to suffer all the accusations Iago had tailored to destroy Othello as well as to kick Cassio himself from his post. His importance in the story is just about ten percent in my own opinion (Characters of Othello, 2006).
Iago: Personally, I consider this character as the one with the greatest contribution in the tragic story of Othello. He was described as Shakespeare’s most evil figure in a way that he can easily manipulate the people around him to do his bidding by taking advantage of his trust and using his victims own motivations to achieve his own (Characters of Othello, 2006).
Being pragmatic, he was in the same way an opportunist to aid his plan toe st plant the seed of suspicion on Cassio and Desdemona. He was able to manipulate all the other characters in the story that leads to everyone’s tragic ending. Relative to the tragic ending of the story, sixty percent can be attributed to the evil deeds of Iago. Compared to modern times stories on television series, Iago was a representation of an ancient villain who was a great threat to a Othello who was supposed to be a good leader and a hero himself.
The envy on Iago’s part for not being in the place of Cassio was the root why he set up Cassio and, Desdemona in committing adultery. This way, he was hoping to gain the trust of Othello to put him as a lieutenant. But the plot was also a way to avenge to those who hurt him and also to gain what he believes is his (Characters of Othello, 2006). It was evident with how Iago tailored the accusation on Desdemona and Cassio that he was indeed, a very clever man but his intentions was evil and his purpose was wicked.
For someone to constantly lie and deceive one’s wife and friends, one must be extremely evil or, in the case of Iago, amoral. In every scene in which Iago speaks one can point out his deceptive manner. Much credit must be given to Iago’s diabolical prowess which enables him to bend and twist the supple minds of his friends and spouse. In today’s society Iago would be called a psychopath without a conscience not the devil incarnate. His ability to say the right things at the right time is what makes him such a successful villain. However, someone with a conscience would never be able to keep up such a ploy and deceive everyone around him (Characters of Othello, 2006).
At the climactic ending of the play, Iago’s plot is given away to Othello by his own wife, Emilia. Iago sees his wife as an obstacle and a nuisance so he kills her. He kills her not as much out of anger but for pragmatic reasons. Emilia is a stumbling block in front of his path. She serves no purpose to him anymore and she can now only hurt his chances of keeping the position he has been given by Othello. Iago’s merciless taking of Emilia’s and Roderigo’s lives is another proof of his amorality (Othello, 2006).
It is very clear from the above discussion that Iago’s pure motive for doing such evil deed is pure selfishness. He wanted power. He felt that he’s the one who should receive the highest form of respect from his constituents. He thought that he, alone, deserves the best credit, may it be for money, or for power. In his heart, there was nothing but pure hunger for power and attention. By reflecting on what he was able to do, it can be easily assumed that he can still do anything and everything just to be get his most desired supremacy, even if it would mean killing more people and deceiving more loved ones.
“Characters of Othello”. [online]. <http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/othello/characters/characters.htm>.
“Othello”. 2002. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia.
“Othello: Analysis of Iago”. [online] <http://www.field-of-(themes.com/shakespeare/essays/Eothelloiago.htm>
“Othello: Analysis of Major Characters”. [online] <http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/othello/canalysis.html>