Throughout “Othello”, the theme of deception plays an important role. The arch-deceiver in this play is Iago. Iago’s repeated deception moves the play forward to the climax and ultimately to the tragic ending. Although deception is always meant to deceive, the degree of deception varies upon the context of the situation. Another character that exhibits deception is Desdemona. The deception shown by Desdemona has a different intention as compared to Iago’s.
Iago wants to get revenge on Othello. The intentions of Iago are hurtful and evil. An example of this is when Iago says to Othello, “She did deceive her father, marrying you” (III.3.238). Iago wants to hurt Othello by placing doubt in his mind that Desdemona could be unfaithful. Iago does this with full intentions to anger Othello. Another incident in where Iago deceives Othello is in Act IV. Iago tricks Othello into thinking that he is talking with Cassio about his affair with Desdemona. Othello watches from afar thinking that Cassio is telling Iago all about his relationship with Desdemona and Othello gets outraged.
In the conversation they say,Iago – “Ply Desdemona well and you are sure on’t. Now if this suit lay in Bianca’s power, How quickly should you speed!”Cassio -“Alas, poor caitiff!”Othello – “(aside) Look, how he laughs already!” (IV.1.23-127)Othello watches from afar thinking that Cassio is telling Iago all about his relationship with Desdemona. This conversation outrages Othello. Iago is actually talking with Cassio about Bianca. When Cassio laughs, Othello thinks that Cassio is laughing at Desdemona. Using verbal deception, Iago was able to make Othello angry by telling him he would talk with Cassio about Desdemona.
Iago deceives not only Othello, but Cassio and Roderigo as well. Iago takesadvantage of his friendships with Cassio as well as Roderigo. At the beginning of the play, there is a party in Cyprus and Iago talks with Cassio and urges him to have a good time. Cassio blindly follows Iago, thinking the entire time that Iago is trying to help him. During this whole time, Iago plans the demise of Cassio, his supposed friend. In order to obtain Cassio’s position as lieutenant, Iago convinces Cassio to take another drink, knowing very well that it will make him drunk and disgrace him (II.2.38).
Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona will eventually stray from Othello to be with Cassio (II.1.240) Iago convinces Roderigo to start a quarrel that night with Cassio so that he will be stripped of his lieutenancy and look bad in the eyes of Othello. Cassio ends up stabbing Montano because Iago got him drunk. This deception by Iago is one of the most important parts of the play. When Cassio looks bad in front of Othello it opens up the doors for Iago to put more bad thoughts into Othello’s head. Iago is able to surmise with Othello that Desdemona has been sleeping with Cassio. Iago would not have been able to convince Othello had Cassio still be highly regarded and Othello’s lieutenant.
Desdemona also uses deception throughout the play. The way in which Desdemona uses it is completely different than Iago. Desdemona’s deception is more subtle and her intentions are not to hurt others. In the beginning of the play, Desdemona deceives her father by going behind his back and marrying Othello in secrecy. Brabantio says, “O, she deceives me past thought!” (I.1.184-185) Desdemona knows that by not telling her father that she is only delaying the inevitable pain that he will experience when he finds out. She deceived her father out of love and her intentions were good-hearted. This is very important in the contribution to the story because Iago is able to use Desdemona’s deception of her father as some base that she is being unfaithful to Othello.
Deception is shown throughout “Othello” by many characters, most notably Iago. Desdemona also deceives her father. Through deception, Iago creates the appearance of good, which ultimately fools the people around him into thinking he is loyal and honest. The basis of Iago’s success comes from the carefully built trust with individual characters. The deception shown by Iago is the basis of the stories progression and he does it with vengeance.
Othello by William Shakespeare ( Mass Market Paperback – 2004-01-01 )