In the play Othello, written by William Shakespeare, the antagonist Iago manipulates other characters. He makes them act in ways that benefits his plan of destroying Othello by making him believe that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with his lieutenant, Michael Cassio. In the beginning of the play, Roderigo who is in love with Othello’s wife, Desdemona, comes to Iago for help. Iago manipulates Roderigo by promising him Desdemona’s attention and love if he “put money in thy purse,” as Iago says.
Roderigo gives money to Iago in the mistaken belief that Iago is using his money to help him get to Desdemona, but Iago is using it to finance his own plan. Roderigo is a desperate character in the play and is easy tricked by Iago, because he doesn’t think he has anything to lose and because he would do anything to get Desdemona. His desperate feelings for Desdemona and Iago’s convincing manner make Roderigo easy to deceive. Iago has also a wife, Emilia. He doesn’t really manipulate her, because she is unaware of what’s going on between Othello and Desdemona during almost the whole play, but he makes her do thinks that benefits his plan.
For example, he makes her steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, which ended being the “icing on the cake” for Othello’s suspiciousness on Desdemona’s and Cassio’s love affair. Everyone likes and trusts Iago, and so do Desdemona. Iago is seen as an honest man, which helps him manipulate people, because they always believe him. Iago manipulates Desdemona by acting on her side and by sympathizing with her. When Othello starts to get very suspicious, he gets very angry at Desdemona, but he refuses to tell her why. Iago convinces her that Othello is angry on a letter he got earlier and not on her.
Desdemona believes this lie, which probably stops her from questioning Othello’s behavior. Iago’s plan is to make Othello think that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair together. His first move to manipulate Cassio is to get him in trouble. He gets Cassio in trouble by making him drunk and by developing a fight for him. When Othello hears what happened, he removes Cassio from his post. Othello asks Iago what Cassio did, but Iago refuses to tell him anything, he says, “I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offense to Michael Cassio. By doing this statement in front of Othello and Cassio, he earns Cassio’s trust. Iago uses this trust to manipulate Cassio later in the play. He tells Cassio that the best way to get his position back is to talk to Desdemona and get her on his side. Cassio does what Iago told him, and Desdemona is happy to help him because she knows him and she thinks he is a noble friend to Othello. But when Iago and Othello come near, Cassio leaves because he doesn’t want to face Othello personally. Iago uses this situation to plant his seed of doubt, and tells Othello that Cassio fled when Othello came near. This is what starts Othello’s suspiciousness.
Iago is a smart man who knows how to act and what he should say to manipulate the people around him. The character that Iago manipulates the most is Othello. He makes Othello believe that Cassio talks about Desdemona, while he is actually talking about Bianca and his sexual relationship with her. Iago makes up a story that he heard Cassio talking about Desdemona in his sleep. He also tells Othello that he has seen Cassio wipe his brow with Desdemona’s handkerchief. As a result of this, Othello gets livid and really frustrated, and wants to kill both Desdemona and Cassio. This clearly shows how Iago manipulates Othello.
Iago is an intelligent character that is strongly talented in improvising and he has a clear feeling for timing. His most important skill is his acting ability. He’s a perfect actor. Although Iago plants his suspicion step by step by lying and by supplying “evidence” when it is needed, he always pretends to be a moral and loyal friend who everyone can trust. One of his strategies is to let other people make their own conclusions. Iago is smart enough to use other people’s actual weaknesses and to let them draw wrong conclusions themselves. All these strategies and abilities help him manipulate other characters in the play.