How does Iago manipulate characters and bring about their downfall in Shakespeare's Othello?

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Othello Coursework

How does Iago manipulate characters and bring about their downfall in Shakespeare’s Othello?


        The play ‘Othello’ was created by William Shakespeare.  Othello is a tale set in Venice at the time when adultery was a hanging offence. It is a tale all about jealousy and manipulation by one of the main characters, Iago. It was originally created by Giraldi Cinthio and was titled: ‘The Story of Disdemona of Venice and the Moorish Captain’ Shakespeare created his play by taking the characters and location and then adapting it to his own style for effect.

        Iago manipulates the characters by revealing and exploiting their fatal flaws to bring about their downfall. Iago uses Othello’s jealousy of Cassio to make Othello believe he is having an affair with Desdemona. Iago uses Desdemona’s trust and love for Othello to bring about her downfall. Iago even uses his wife’s trust to make her not notice his schemes. Iago also uses Cassio’s fatal flaw, trust. Cassio is in love with Desdemona. Iago has his own weakness too, greed. He is greedy for power and is jealous of Cassio for being promoted above him, and will do anything to stop Othello and Cassio.

        In act 1 scene 1, Iago starts to manipulate Othello straight away. Iago is speaking to Roderigo about how he despises Othello and wants revenge. Iago refers to Othello as ‘it’ or ‘him’ never speaking his name, this is used to make Iago sound more devious, and to give more effect to the scene. Iago carries on and says that he also hates Cassio for getting ‘his job’ by being promoted to lieutenant ahead of him, a promotion, Iago feels, should have belonged to him. Iago vows that he will get revenge upon Othello and Cassio, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters can be truly followed.” He says this to Roderigo then he says, “I am not what I am.” To try to suggest to Roderigo that no one knows who he really is. This is when we realise just how sly and manipulative Iago really is.


Iago then tells Roderigo to inform Brabantio, Desdemona’s father about Desdemona and Othello’s secret marriage. Iago yells out to get Brabantio’s attention, “Thieves, thieves! Look to your house, your daughter and your bags! Thieves, thieves!” Iago yells this out to imply that Desdemona has been stolen away form him by Othello, and in doing so, is calling Othello a thief. Iago continues to yell out to Brabantio, building up his disgust for Othello by using derogatory terminology to suggest that Othello and Desdemona’s love is dirty and wrong, instead of the innocent, pure love that is really there. Iago continues, and uses animal imagery, “an old black ram is tupping your whiter ewe.” The speech Iago uses is to try and destroy Othello’s marriage and to make Brabantio despise Othello. He says this to try and make it sound worse than it is. All of this speech also enrages Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona.


Iago then shows his hatred for Othello by stating, “In which regard, though I do hate him as I do hell pains, yet for necessity of present life I must show out a flag and a sign of love.” Iago openly admits this to try and win Brabantio over and to make him feel as if Iago is his friend.

Othello trusts Iago, he trusts him so much he gives Iago responsibility of looking after Desdemona while he is sent away to war. This is part of Othello’s downfall. Iago is happy about this because it allows him to start his plans. Othello states this about Iago. “A man he is of honesty and trust to his conveyance I assign my wife.” This is dramatic Irony as Iago is dishonest and deceitful, and is going to betray his trust. Othello then states that if Desdemona were unfaithful he would kill himself, “My life upon her faith.” Which gives Iago a way to bring about his downfall.

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Iago then uses a soliloquy. A soliloquy is when character talks about his/her innermost thoughts and feelings to themselves and to the audience, the other characters are unaware of what is said during a soliloquy because it is said in their thoughts. Iago uses this soliloquy to tell the audience his plan for bringing about Othello’s downfall. Iago thinks up his excuse if he gets caught, “ I hate the Moor, and it is thought aboard that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office.” Iago says this to say that Othello is having an affair with his wife, he ...

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