To What Extent Is Othello Responsible For His Own Downfall?Get Your
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A tragedy is the story of an individual whose downfall is brought about by specific defects in his character, tragic flaws. The play, Othello, is a twisted tale of deceit and revenge. Iago creates an alternate world filled with lies, that unfortunately consumes the trusting and naive Othello. Othello’s downfall comes about due to a combination of the influence of Iago and the fatal character flaws of the otherwise virtuous Othello. Iago absolutely hates Othello. He is angry with Othello for promoting Michael Cassio, an officer with no real battle experience, to lieutenant over him.
Once Iago comes up with a plan for revenge it does not take very long for him to set it into motion. Iago’s plan is to cause Michael Cassio to fall out of Othello’s good graces. Once Cassio has lost his position as lieutenant Iago knows that Cassio will do anything to get it back, so he advises Cassio to get Othello’s wife, Desdemona, to speak on his behalf to Othello. Iago tells Cassio, “Our generals wife is now the general… Confess yourself freely to her. Importune her to help to put you in your place again. ” Iago has begun his plan to poison Othello’s brain.
Once Desdemona begins defending Cassio to Othello, Iago begins to make Othello think that there is something odd in the situation and that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. Iago does this because he knows that Desdemona is one of Othello’s only weak spots. Othello trusted Desdemona implicitly “my life upon her faith”- showing the audience the extent to which her faithfulness rules his life and his trust. Iago knew Othello loved her so much he would do anything for her, and if he could destroy that love in some way his plan would work.
Iago is deliberately plotting for Othello’s downfall. Othello failed to recognize the strength of this love when Iago started to put the negative thoughts of infidelity into his head. He started to believe Iago right away, and he seemed to forget how much Desdemona had already proved her love for him. Desdemona had previously stated “I do perceive here a divided duty… but here is my husband…. so much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor my lord”, Desdemona shows her loyalty to Othello. However it was Othello’s insecurity that caused his downfall.
If he had not been so insecure then he would have been able to dismiss Iago’s words, and he would have been able to say to himself that our love is so strong and pure that she would never be able to hurt me this way. Thus we are introduced to one of Othello’s fatal flaws, his insecurity. Another of Othello’s tragic flaws, which contribute to his downfall, is his open and trusting nature. Iago knows of Othello’s fault and states “The Moor is of a free and open nature/ That thinks men honest that seem to be so/And will as tenderly be led by the nose/As asses are. Othello is a professional soldier and preaches by the rules and codes of honour thoroughly. He believes that people are honest and genuine until he has proof that they are not. This is what makes Othello easily susceptible to Iago’s schemes. He judges people by their exterior behaviour but really does not know anything about their ulterior motives. Iago takes no time in manipulating this flaw and transforms a one time soldier and righteous individual into a degrading and shameless wife murderer. Iago knows his plan will work because of Othello’s trustworthy nature.
Furthermore, Othello has no real reason to suspect that his loyal ensign would scheme against him. Using jealousy as a weapon is what prompts Iago to plot the ultimate downfall of Othello. Jealousy is the most corrupting and destructive of emotions and is demonstrated throughout this drama by the protagonist, Othello. As the play progresses, we watch it’s vicious influence on the protagonist with compassion and horror. Othello allows Iago to make him suspicious about Desdemona’s intentions in wanting to help Cassio to get his position back. Iago tells Othello, “Look to your wife; observe her with Cassio;…
She did deceive her father marrying you. ” In reality it was Iago himself who told Cassio to ask for Desdemona’s help in the first place. Desdemona would never even think of cheating on Othello, and confirms this in Act 4, Scene 3 when she says, “Beshrew me if I would do such a wrong for the whole world. ” Even though Desdemona is a virtuous and innocent creature Othello still comes to believe that she is a whore who has slept with Cassio while married to him. Othello doesn’t show himself to be a jealous person at the beginning but through Iago’s manipulation, we see the emotion work at full force.
Deceived by Iago’s skillful lies and convincing techniques, Othello must face emotions he can’t handle. Whenever he thinks of Cassio or his wife, an image of the two making love to each other in Othello’s bed appears. His jealousy literally drives him mad. Othello becomes so enraged with the thought and even the sight of her that in Act 4, Scene 1 he calls her “devil” and strikes her in public. In fact he becomes so enraged with her that in Act 5, Scene 2 he states, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men. ” Later in that scene he proceeds to smother her to death.
In actuality the only evidence that Othello has to prove her infidelity is the handkerchief that Iago places in Cassio’s house, and of course the words of Iago, whom he believes he can trust. His perception and conclusions are replaced by fury and hatred. However, the Othello is too late to realize what he’s done, and consequently this results in many lives lost, including his own. Othello allowed his passions to rule over reason, and for that he paid, to him, the ultimate sacrifice. Although Othello was naive and wrong to put his trust in Iago without the presence of any real evidence, he did so partly because of his low self-esteem.
Othello was one of very few black men in Venice and Desdemona was a very young and very beautiful white woman. Othello had to feel extremely unworthy of her affections. Throughout the play Othello is reminded of his inferiority due to his blackness. Emilia refers to Othello as a “blacker devil” and Iago claims that Othello is “an old black ram”, “the devil”, and a “Barbary horse. ” Othello was very aware of his colour and it being a flaw in the society in which he lived. This made it easier for him to believe that Desdemona could possibly want someone else, someone easier on the eyes.
However, in reality, there was no reason for him to believe this, and that is where Othello is truly flawed. Desdemona was not blind. She knew whom she was marrying, and she chose Othello of her own free will. If she wanted to marry someone white she would have. Othello let himself be tricked by the lies of Iago, and so it was he who was responsible for his own downfall. After finding that his wife was faithful, he changes from the man we once knew. He is a broken man, broken because he killed the one thing he was passionate about. Othello’s guilt is eventually the killer.
Othello’s lack of self-knowledge makes him easy prey for Iago. Othello’s jealousy stems from his insecurity and feelings of inferiority. If Othello believed that Desdemona was completely devoted to him, he would not ever have killed her. Once Iago inflames Othello’s jealousy and gets the darker aspects of Othello’s nature into action, there is nothing Othello can do to stop it, since he cannot even admit that he has these darker traits. Despite all this, Othello can be looked upon sympathetically to the extent that he did not ask for this plan to come about. Everything that happened to him he did not plan.
He did not ask for Iago not to like him and therefore to set him up. He did not ask for Iago to put those negative thoughts into his head, and he certainly did not plan to kill his wife. Othello does bear the brunt for the responsibility of Desdemona’s death- after all, it was he himself who committed the murderous deed! However, one must also understand the reasons and circumstances which brought about the act. The manipulations by Iago upon Othello that allowed qualities common to humanity to surface, play a large part in the build up to the act of murder.
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Iago also was the mechanism that transformed Othello’s values of honour and justice into vengefulness and a rather obsessive hunger for morality in his world. It is evident, therefore, that Othello’s faults and virtues, all that makes him human, played a large part in the demise of Desdemona and himself yet without Iago, there would have been no tragedy to speak of. In the end it was Othello that made his own choices with his own free will, and so it was justified when he had to pay for his mistakes, but the influence of Iago’s manipulation cannot be denied.
Author: Brandon Johnson
To What Extent Is Othello Responsible For His Own Downfall?
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THE DOWNFALL OF OTHELLO AS CAUSED BY IAGOIago is one of Shakespeare s most intriguing and credible villains. Iago can be perceived as either evil or brilliant in his plans to be deemed lieutenant. As the villain in Othello , Iago has two main actions: to plot and to deceive. Iago is mad that Cassio was chosen to be lieutenant instead of himself. From this anger comes the main conflict of the play. Iago plans to ruin Othello and Cassio by carrying out a plan based on lies and deceit. This plan will make Iago the only person that Othello believes he can trust, and Iago will use this trust to manipulate Othello. Foremost, Iago first plan to ruin Othello is to use Roderigo s weakness to help him remove Cassio from his lieutenant position, which will in turn lead to both Othello s and Cassio s demise. Iago tells Roderigo to "put money in thy purse" (Shakespeare 53). Iago urges Roderigo to earn money now so that he can win Desdemona s heart. Iago tells Roderigo what he wants to hear in order to enlist his help. Iago states that he would never associate with someone like Roderigo except to gain his own ends. Thus do I ever make my fool my purse--/ For I mine own gained knowledge should profane/ If I would time expand with such a snipe/ But for my sport and profit (Shakespeare 55). Iago feels that Roderigo is a foolish man who exists only for his use. He manipulates Roderigo to his fullest extent then says he does so for his own sport and profit. This idea is strengthened by the use of the word snipe. The New Arden Shakespeare defines snipe as fool and states that the word meant gull or dupe before Shakespeare (Honigmann 159). These definitions emphasize the fact that Iago feels no respect for Roderigo and is manipulating Roderigo only to further his plan. Secondly, Iago plans to remove Cassio from his position as lieutenant so that he himself can take over Cassio s position as confidant to Othello. Iago wants to convince Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are in love. They are the two people that Othello trusts, and if Othello believes that they have turned on him, this will lead to his downfall. Cassio is a lady s man, and Iago believes that Cassio s charm makes women fall in love with him. Iago will make the innocent flirtations of Cassio and Desdemona seem like secret love to Othello: She is false as water (Shakespeare 247). Meaning that she is unstable for Othello and will only complicate his life. Iago is implying that Desdemona is lying to Othello about her relations with Cassio. Iago wants to ruin Othello s life by making up situations so that he may justify his hatred because he is an evil person. Iago spends his energy on trying to break up the marriage of Desdemona and Othello, first with Roderigo and secondly with Cassio. Iago acts in any way that helps him destroy Othello through Desdemona. Iago knows how much Desdemona means to Othello and makes him extremely jealous of Cassio and ultimately becoming dangerous. Cassio thinks that Iago is "honest" (Shakespeare 49) and trusts the advice that Iago gives. Iago makes it seem as if he is helping Cassio because he is a genuine friend. Throughout the entire play Iago plays Cassio for a fool. Iago offers suggestions to Cassio on how he can win his lieutenancy back, when what he tells Cassio to do is actually just part of his plan to destroy Othello s marriage and destroy Cassio.
Lastly, Iago hopes to convince Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. If Iago s plan unfolds properly, he will be granted the revenge that he believes he deserves. Iago states that the reason for his hate is that Cassio was chosen to be Othello s lieutenant. Iago s only reason for destroying Othello is that Iago is an inherently bad person. Iago invents reasons for his actions against Othello, so that his own selfish ends can be met. Here, Roderigo learns that he has competition with Cassio for the love of Desdamona, and this information is given to Roderigo only because Iago hopes that Roderigo will initiate a fight with Cassio. This fight will get Cassio in trouble and hopefully remove him from his position. Sir, he s rash and very sudden in choler and haply may strike at you. Provoke him that he may, for even out of that will I cause these of Cyprus to mutiny, whose qualification shall come into notrue taste again but by the displanting of Cassio. (Shakespeare 79) The New Arden Shakespeare defines qualifications as "condition, nature or pacification" (180) and uses the word trust instead of taste. When taste is used, the line says that the people of Cyprus will not feel comfortable with their nature until Cassio is removed from his position. In contrast, when trust is used, Iago s words say that the people of Cyprus will not be able to trust authorities again until Cassio is no longer lieutenant. The word trust makes more sense in this sentence, because Cassio lost the trust of the masses when he acted with aggression. He was always a well-mannered and peaceful man, and now the people of Cyprus do not trust his anymore. Iago hopes that this information will make Othello forever jealous. In summation, through much deceit and manipulation Iago will drive Othello into madness and ruin the lives of everyone. Iago draws Othello into mistaken jealousy in order to ruin him (Encarta). He does this through Desdemona, Othello becomes a mad man after being led to believe that his wife is unfaithful to him and as a result he murders her. Iago destroys Othello s marriage and becomes Othello s lieutenant. Iago acts in this illogical manner because he is a naturally bad person who has no real logical reason to hate Othello. Iago fooled everyone around him, including those who cared for him. The very people he had set out to destroy still thought he was honest until their eyes were opened to the truth: that Iago is a conniving and evil person that shows no remorse. Iago carefully maps out how to do and say things so that he may use people as a means to his own self-production. He takes advantage of those around him, he creates chaos, and he maliciously takes the life of those he takes advantage of, also. He is evil at the core and makes no apologies for it as shown when he says, I bleed, sir, but not killed (Shakespeare 259). He vows never to reveal his motives for causing the events that occurred because he is too proud, and too evil.