' I am not what I am '. These words spoken by Iago are a clear reflection that Iago is not the person perceived by the rest of the characters in the story, or by the audience for that matter. Iago is clearly the antagonist in this story, and is also a greedy person. He is not just greedy for money, but also for the position as Othello's lieutenant that Cassio holds.
What enrages him more is that he has been around longer than Cassio, and yet it is Cassio who is made lieutenant. Thus greed and jealousy drive him to achieve what he believes should be rightfully his own, even if means going through great lengths of deceit. Though his deceitfulness enables him to be successful in the short term, it is his ultimate downfall. Iago's successful deceit can be attributed to several factors. From insecurity to love to obsession, Iago uses these weaknesses in the characters to conceive a deceitful plot, one that becomes the basis of conflict in Shakespeare's Othello.
Perhaps Iago's most important attribute in his deceitfulness, is the very title he possessed; 'HONEST' Iago. People who wanted to share their problems or confess them, would come to Iago in the hope that he may help them. They all trusted him and never for a moment doubted his honesty. It is the very trust that is endowed on him by others, that he uses to his advantage. It begins with Roderigo who explains to Iago of his love for Desdemona, and wants to get her. He thus falsely helps Roderigo come up with a plan to win over Desdemona.
Thus Roderigo's obsession leads him to be beguiled by Iago. ' Wilt thou be fast to my hopes if I depend on the issue? Roderigo asks Iago, to which Iago replies ' Thou art sure of me'. Roderigo believes him and does not doubt his words, and thus his vulnerability falls prey to Iago. Another attribute that Iago uses, is his use of words to influence and his persuasive language. He first strikes up a conversation with Iago in which he uses tempting words of Desdemona to soften him. (AC - Bradley).
IAGO - He hath Not yet made wanton the night with her, and she is sport for love. CASSIO - She's a most exquisite lady. IAGO - And I'll warrant her full of game. CASSIO - Indeed, she's a most fresh and delicate creature. IAGO - Well, happiness to their sheets Then he persuades Cassio for a drink, ' What, man? 'Tis a night of revels.
The gallants desire it'. He eventually gets Cassio drunk for the meeting between him and Roderigo. However he ends up with a fight with Montana and injures him. Othello finds out and stripes Cassio of his lieutenant title, leaving him extremely worried about his reputation, '' Reputation, reputation, reputation.' ' Cassio exclaims to Iago.
Here again, Iago uses Cassio's obsession with his reputation to further formulate his plan and elongate his web of deceit. He uses Cassio's desperation in convincing him that the only way he can restore his reputation is by taking his problem to Desdemona who will help him restore his position. At this point Cassio cannot possibly be aware of the plan Iago has set forth, since he is so worried about reputation. Therefore it cannot be said that he is ignorant, he is merely a victim of circumstances. Again the plan plays out perfectly. Cassio's conservation with Desdemona is spotted by Othello, and now Iago uses this as a starting point for the conservation between him and Othello.
Here again Iago uses Othello's trust in him to his advantage. Othello as we see is very trustful, and put his entire confidence in Iago. Although Othello falsely placed confidence in Iago, it was not because of stupidity. Othello's opinion of Iago was the same opinion everybody else had for Iago. (AC - Bradley). Thus together with the Othello's trust and the meeting between Cassio and Desdemona, Iago stabs vicious statements at Othello about the false affair between Cassio and Desdemona.
Also since Othello is emotionally unstable as well as insecure, he buys this plot from Iago. '' Iago does not bring these warnings to a husband who had lived with a wife for months and years and knew her like his sister or his bosom-friend ''. (AC - Bradley). In addition Iago also exploits his Emilia's love for him to his advantage. Since Emilia wants to earn Iago's love, she hands him the misplaced handkerchief of Desdemona. Deceitful as always, Iago used the handkerchief to frame that Cassio slept with Desdemona, and has Othello witness it.
Again Othello gets seizures and is even more blinded from the truth. Othello was newly married to Desdemona and thus he could have not know known much about Desdemona. Thus it is quite natural for him to be greatly disturbed by Iago's words, especially when Iago uses them with ' extreme reluctance and manifestly from a friend's sense of duty.' ' (AC- Bradley). Thus we can see how everyone who had fallen to Iago's vicious plan and treachery were deeply worried about their very own issues. One might argue that the very ignorance and refusal to see things from a broader perspective, may have allowed Iago's plan to materialize. However since each one of them were after solving their problems, it becomes very difficult for them to see from a different perspective, especially after everybody trusted Iago...
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY William Shakespeare criticism by AC - Bradley web > I used his literature to extract portions on how Iago is able to successfully deceive Othello in convincing him of the false affair between Cassio and Desdemona. I have also used Othello's weaknesses which allowed him to be manipulated. I have used direct quotations as well as indirect. I have also used how Iago is able to influence Cassio to get drunk..