Shakespeare has used pathos in vast ways to support character development and to build the readers or audiences’ relationship with the characters. Shakespeare makes his readers feel sympathy for certain characters by the way the antagonist treats them. In Othello, Iago used Roderigo, tricked Othello, and mistreated the female characters in the play. Iago helps develop the theme of jealousy throughout the play by exploiting some of the major characters. The truths about some characters are shown clearly to the audience which helps them establish their opinions and feelings about them. Shakespeare uses pathos to get his reader’s point of view of a character.
In the beginning of the play, the audience was able to discover that Iago was misusing Roderigo for his own benefit. He was taking his money and lying about loyalty. Iago could care less about Roderigo; all he could think was to get back at Othello and release his jealousy towards him and Cassio. At this point, the audience feels sympathy for Roderigo and somehow relate to his pain. Having to live without someone you love dearly can lead to dramatic conclusions, like the one Roderigo was thinking of. “It is silliness to live, when to live is torment.” (I, iii, 305) Even though Iago acts like a loyal friend to Roderigo and promises him he will get Desdemona for him, the audience knows he is only taking advantage of him. Because of Iago, Roderigo is feeding off of his jealousy towards Othello, and doing everything Iago tells him to do for a woman he will never have.
In contrast, tricking people into thinking that false statements are true and going out of your way to hurt someone is another flaw Iago relinquishes; this time, on the star of the play. He tricks Othello into thinking that his wife is cheating on him with his best lieutenant. Knowing this false fact, Othello is devastated and his jealousy towards Cassio builds greatly. Every little thing that Iago hints at increases Othello’s jealousy by another level. “She did deceive her father, marrying you; / And when she seem’d to shake and fear your looks/ She lov’d them most.” (III, iii, ). However, Othello falls into “Honest Iago’s” trap and considers him a loyal and trustworthy friend. The audience would think otherwise. This shows the readers that Othello is naïve and easily jumps to conclusion without even talking to his wife. Nevertheless, the audience cannot help but feel sympathy towards him for being so dim-witted, yet gullible.
Lastly, Iago uses another trick up his sleeve aiming at the ladies in the play. He mentally, emotionally, and physically abuses the women just to go forth with his plan. Iago ruins Desdemona’s happiness for his own selfish reason and jealousy takes complete control of him once he starts to include innocent women in his malevolent plan. Not only he, but Othello as well gets badly influenced by jealousy and ends up vowing to murder his wife. In comparison, Iago stabs Emilia for revealing the truth. “I hold my peace, sir? no; / No, I will speak as liberal as the north; / Let heaven and men and devils, let them all, / All, all, cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak.” (V, ii, ). These actions create pathos for these two women and the audience knows that these women were never wrong. Even though Desdemona and Emilia were one of the major components on building the theme, for them to be accused and have their rights taken away helps the audience understand the theme of jealousy better.
Shakespeare uses pathos in this play to develop the theme of jealousy. He makes the antagonist and his actions the key point of displaying jealousy and exploiting the major characters in the play. Shakespeare describes to the audience how the influence of jealousy can affect so many people and make them do unlawful acts. Similar to how Iago was disloyal to Roderigo, dishonest to Othello, and abusive to Emilia and Desdemona. However, the truth about these characters helps the audience understand them better so that they can create their own opinion about them.