An Analysis of the Trait of Honesty in William Shakespeare's Play Othello

Categories: Othello

One of the most valuable characteristics that humans seek for is honesty. No matter what the circumstances are, candidness is highly respected because it provides security and trust especially for the most insecure individuals. Othello is one of the individuals who express the importance of honesty in order to subdue his insecurities. Iago was the individual who seemingly was compatible with Othello’s principles of honesty despite having shady intentions because he wanted self-empowerment and gratification. Why did Othello believe Iago and distrust Cassio and Desdemona? Othello distrusts Cassio and Desdemona because he saw the little faults and dishonesty in those two individuals and he was swayed with Iago’s importance of honesty.

William Shakespeare shows in his tragic play Othello that honesty is an overvalued trait. Iago uses his reputation to manipulate Othello’s mind.

Iago tries to convince Othello that Cassio is a man who is dishonest due to his flirtatious demeanor with women. His flirtatious nature would be a bug in Othello’s ear as Cassio was likely to an affair with Desdemona.

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Othello was hesitant to believe Iago and threatened to kill him. However, Iago was frustrated and put blame on himself because of his “honest” reputation. Iago states “O wretched fool, That {liv’st} to make thine honesty a vice!- O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world” (III. III 429 31). Iago exploits how honesty is meaningful to him and he lives through an honest reputation because he believes that the world is corrupted with deceitful individuals such as Cassio.

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He assures Othello that he only had the best intention for him and he was frustrated that his honesty was a threat for his own life. Othello begins to believe Iago because Iago is providing creditability for himself. Iago’s impassioned speech about honesty sways Othello to trust him because Othello believes that his reputation and his personality are interrelated. Othello has reverence for Iago because Iago is the only individual who elaborates the importance of honesty including Othello himself.

Iago expresses his hatred of women because he believes that they are dishonest. Honesty and women do not blend in Iago’s eyes. He believes that no matter how beautiful and intelligent women are, they will use their assets to manipulate their men to have power. Iago states “If she be fair and wise, fairness and wit/ The one’s for use, the other useth it” (II. I. 144-45) and “If she be black, and thereto have a wit/ She’ll find a white that shall her blackness {hit}” (II. I. 147-48). Both of these quotes expressed by Iago reveal his lack of trust of women because of their deceptive nature. Iago’s point was that women are naturally deceitful and they have the intentions to have some power for themselves. Iago states that “Look to her Moor, if thou has eyes to see/She has deceived her father, and may thee” (I. III. 333-334). He expresses these feelings about Desdemona and Othello is convinced because she married him without her father’s consent; showing dishonesty and disobedience. Desdemona was also dishonest when Othello asked her about the missing handkerchief; she stated that she had the handkerchief in order to avoid confrontation because she knew the symbolic meaning of that handkerchief.

Those two dishonest acts made him question about her motives and nature. Though Desdemona has always been a faithful wife to Othello, Othello fails to see the honesty in her because of these broad generalizations and her dishonesty with her father and the handkerchief. In humanity, whether fiction or reality, humans are quick to point out the inconsistencies from others and label them as untrustworthy. However, all humans have been dishonest in some points of their lives. Even Othello shows some dishonesty in the play. Desdemona and Othello technically break the moral code because the father should have the consent. He is dishonest and disobedient of moral codes in Venice despite being the leader who supposed to lead Venice with honor and honesty. Some believe that Othello completely loves Desdemona but does complete love truly exists? He exaggerates his love for Desdemona by saying “My soul hath her content so absolute/ That not another comfort like to this/ Succeeds in unknown fate” (II. I 206-209).

It seems that Othello expresses a cliché expression of love in order to sway Desdemona even more. Without a doubt, Othello does love Desdemona but he is saying that there is nothing else in the world that would make him content is clearly untrue; Othello is prideful for his combat skills in the war as he was raised to cause bloodshed. Lastly, when he murders Desdemona and he is questioned by Emilia, he initially states that she killed her own self. Othello values so much of honesty that he fails to realize that he was dishonest as well. Honesty is very important in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. People look up to individuals who are honest. It is a natural instinct to mistrust someone who has shown some dishonesty but we all forget that we all have been dishonest. Humans are bound to be imperfect. Honesty is that one trait that represent as false gold in the minefield; it appears to be gold and we want it for preservation and security but the inner core of it does not have the completed and sequential atoms as there are faults and deficits.

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An Analysis of the Trait of Honesty in William Shakespeare's Play Othello. (2022, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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