In the play Othello, the characters depend only on their eyes, and with that, they jump to major conclusions. Many times in life we often take things for what we see them as or what they appear to be instead of looking to see what something or someone really is. Reality is often disguised by appearance. The tragic plot of Othello hinges on the ability of the villain, Iago, to mislead other characters, particularly Roderigo and Othello, by encouraging them to misinterpret what they see.
Through Iago’s manipulation of Roderigo, treachery towards Othello, and Desdemona’s deception towards her father, Shakespeare demonstrates that appearance is not always reality. Although Iago made it look as if him and Roderigo were partners in crime, it turns out Roderigo was just being manipulated. Roderigo is one of the many characters who are duped into believing Iago is actually trying to help him. He convinces Roderigo to to keep his hopes up for Desdemona by saying, “It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor–put money in thy purse–nor he his to her . . . “(1. 3. 338-340).
Iago is convincing Roderigo that the love between Othello and Desdemona cannot last much longer so he should just wait and everything will work out. “Honest” Iago, who only wished to further his plan of revenge on Othello, lied to Roderigo who had come to his “friend” for help. Roderigo had left after their conversation believing his good friend was helping him. Later in the play, Iago also convinces Roderigo that Desdemona loves Cassio. Iago subsequently manipulates Roderigo’s jealousy and resentment towards Cassio and Roderigo helps remove Cassio of his lieutenancy. Roderigo is merely a puppet to Iago’s treacherous plot to eliminate Cassio.
To Othello, it may seem that Iago is an honest and trustworthy friend, but it turns out he is the opposite. Virtue! a fig! ’tis in ourselves that we are thus… and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. (1. 3. 5). When Iago makes an analogy between gardening and exercising free will, we’re reminded of the way that Iago is the ultimate master gardener, so to speak. Part of what makes him such a brilliant manipulator of Othello is his ability to plant the seeds of doubt and jealousy in Othello’s mind. Iago is only doing this to serve his own purposes so that is plan will work out in the end.
Iago is able to manipulate people into falling for the traps he sets. This misplaced trust is what leads Othello to his downfall. Desdemona is continuously distrusted by those who love and trust her most, especially Brabanito. Brabantio refuses to believe Desdemona loves Othello. Brabantio thinks Othello used witchcraft to woo Desdemona. Desdemona elopes with Othello without her father’s permission. Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see: She has deceived her father, and may thee. (1. 3. 10). Brabantio suggests that, because Desdemona deceived her father when she eloped with Othello, Desdemona will likely deceive her husband.
Desdemona, as we know, is completely faithful to Othello. Desdemona deceives her father in order to be with Othello. All of this manipulation, treachery, and deceit is what leads each character to their own downfall. Not only are looks deceiving, but looks alone, only cause trouble, trouble that is sometimes unfixable. People today, just like those in the Shakespearean period, jump to conclusions just by seeing. It is important to get all the facts before something tragic happens just like in Othello. Seeing isn’t always believing.