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'Iago's deception of his victims sets off the events that lead up to the tragedy yet ultimately it is Othello who is responsible for his own downfall.' Discuss

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Introduction

'Iago's deception of his victims sets off the events that lead up to the tragedy yet ultimately it is Othello who is responsible for his own downfall.' Discuss 'Oh, beware my lord of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on'. In the Shakespearean play 'Othello', it is clear from the outset when Iago first pours forth his grievances and ambitions for destruction to the audience that he will be the instigator of the tragedy that will inevitably occur, Yet, although Iago plants a seed of doubt in Othello's mind, it is to a certain extent Othello himself and his weakness that germinates this seed, intense jealousy being the final ingredient to allow it to bloom. While Iago is the undisputed instigator of this tragedy he is guilty of much more. Yes, he struck a match and lit the fire yet he continues to add fuel. In the first scene of the play Shakespeare highlights Iago as not an obvious villain but a devious one, through Iago's statement 'I am not what I am'. ...read more.

Middle

Iago exploits one of the most common human weaknesses to instigate this tragic tale - jealousy. However, whether Iago's milking of this weakness in Othello is to blame for the resulting tragedy, or Othello for having it, is a matter of personal opinion. In one of Iago's soliloquies Shakespeare displays Iago as a man consumed by jealousy. Shakespeare demonstrates the depth of emotion with Iago's description of jealousy 'like a poisonous mineral, gnawing my inwards'. Othello's lack of self-knowledge allows for Iago's infection of Othello with this intense emotion. Othello thinks of himself as a level-headed, logical man, 'a man not easily jealous'. He has always been a competent soldier whose indispensable skills are highlighted by the fact 'another of his fathom they have none to lead their business'. Yet Shakespeare makes clear that whilst Othello is a competent soldier he is far from a competent lover as he was simply a man 'that loved not wisely but too well'. Othello represents how jealousy can be one of the most corrupting and destructive emotions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Iago skilfully manipulates the love between Desdemona and Othello that caused her to defy society's norms and elope, by recalling situations in the past when Desdemona was deceiving. Desdemona's quest to compliment Cassio to Othello 'for the love I bear to Cassio' is done with all good intentions however gradually misconstrued and Othello knows Desdemona has deceived in the past such as with her father and through Othello's courtship 'she seemed to shake, and fear your (Othello's) looks when she loved them the most'. These examples typify how many of Desdemona's fine qualities, when exploited, could be mistaken as deceiving. Thus one can see how, whilst Desdemona was a victim, her virtues allowed her to play an inadvertent role of this tragedy. The core of the tragedy in Othello is similar to a complex quilt, each character a fine piece of thread and Iago the seamstress - sewing it all together with a needle of Othello's destructive emotions and lack of self-knowledge. Therefore, who or what is it that ultimately lies at the root of the whole tragedy? This is a matter of personal opinion and one that will be debated by Shakespearean scholars for centuries to come. ...read more.

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