Othello is manipulated to trust Iago rather than his wife. Iago uses fake evidence against Desdemona in an attempt to prove she is cheating on her husband. Iago uses racism and past experiences to persuade Othello into believing he is not good enough for his wife as well as her not being good enough for him. Othello choses to believe Iago over his wife for the reason that she has only her word to back up her story while Iago has hard evidence. Iago plants fake evidence in the form of a handkerchief owned by Desdemona to lead Othello into believing his wife is having an affair with another man. By mistake, Othello leaves Desdemona’s handkerchief laying on the ground and Emilia, Iago’s wife finds it but fails to return it. Although Iago cannot witness Cassio and Desdemona having sex, he promises Othello he will find hard evidence of the affair. Iago creates a fake story claiming to have seen Cassio with Desdemona’s handkerchief given to her by Othello.
He claims the evidence is backed by “imputation and strong circumstances” (3.3.407) and reassures Othello he is only trying to lead him to “the door of truth” (3.3.408). Iago falsely tells Othello that he must re-think the situation but by that point, Othello had his mind set to kill his framed wife as he cries “O, blood, blood, blood” (3.3.454). The hard evidence planted by Iago was so efficient to get Othello to believe his wife was involved with Cassio due to its deep personal roots of the couples love. The handkerchief was given to Desdemona by her husband as a token of his love and the framing of her giving it to another man showed Othello that she doesn’t value their love anymore. He does not bother to simply ask Desdemona if she was having an affair because he knows she is now untrustworthy and will simply deny the allegations if challenged. By breaking down the trust between Othello and Desdemona with his hard evidence, Othello now trusts Iago and not his wife.
The hard evidence cements Othello’s trust in Othello although none of it is actually true. With Othello’s trust, Iago can more easily manipulate the framing of Desdemona and Cassio, as Othello will believe anything said by Iago. Throughout the novel, racism plays a crucial role in persuading Othello to think he is not deserving of Desdemona’s love. Iago is perhaps the most racist character but the negative judgments of Othello based upon his race are contributed from all Venetian citizens of Venice. He is judged to be harsh and rough just because he is black. He is referred to as “an old black ram” (1.1.89), “an erring barbarian” (1.3.350) and a “Barbary horse” (1.1.112) by Iago to let Othello know he is considered to be less important and valuable due to his skin colour. Roderigo also openly degrades Othello by referring to him as “thick lips” (1.1.67) and “lascivious moor” (1.1.126) which break him down and forms insecurities about his race.
His insecurities in turn lead Othello to believe he is not worthy of Desdemona. Iago also warns Othello that if Desdemona was willing to leave her father, she is likely to do the same with him. Even her own father says, “She has deciev’d her father and may thee” (1.3.290) proving to Othello that those close to Desdemona have been deceived and she might do the same to him. Iago later echoes Brabantios words by stating, “She did deceive her father, marrying you;” (3.3.208), which solidifies Othello’s distrust in his own wife. The combination of Iago being perceived as honest and charming and Othello’s gullibility allow for Iago to easily manipulate Othello. Othello is vulnerable to the perceived notion that his wife did not truly love him and could easily leave him all due to the colour of his skin. He is certainly not jealous of his wife but rather scared of the prospect of her leaving him due to his colour.
As he becomes vulnerable, Othello is soothed by fake honesty surrounding Iago as he is refereed to as “Honest Iago” (1.3.290). Iago has no evidence or past experiences to lessen his trustworthiness to Othello while his wife Desdemona has been framed by Iago specifically to create doubt-allowing Othello to question her loyalty to him. The constant charm by Iago and the question surrounding Desdemona eventually lead to Othello to fully trust Iago and being persuaded to kill his own wife. The motive behind the killing of Desdemona was not from jealousy but rather “in a conviction forced upon him by the almost superhuman art of Iago [..] and must have entertained who had believed Iago’s honesty as Othello did. (Samuel Coleridge).
What Coleridge is suggesting is that the motive behind Othello wanting to kill his wife was not jealousy, but rather all of Othello’s trust was to Iago therefore he could be easily manipulated. Iago gained all of Othello’s trust and used it to manipulate Othello into killing Desdemona contributing to his overall plan. Iago gains Othello’s trust by using hard evidence and racism. Othello doesn’t simply ask Desdemona if she were having an affair because he does not trust her anymore. Othello’s tragic choices are driven by revenge on his wife for being untrustworthy while in reality she was loyal to him. Iago’s lying and deceiving leaves many of his friends dead and leads to his torture and downfall.
Work Cited Page
Shakespeare, William. Othello. Oxford School Shakespeare. Ed. Roma Gill Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print Coleridge, Samuel. “Othello: The Bradley view (& Coleridge).” English Class Handout, 2014. Print.
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