Othello - Battle Of Good Vs. Evil Essay

“I am not what I am.” What is Iago? — as distinct from what he pretends to be — and what are his motives?
In Shakespeare’s, Othello, the reader is presented the classic
battle between the deceitful forces of evil and the innocence of good.
It are these forces of evil that ultimately lead to the breakdown of
Othello, a noble venetian moor, well-known by the people of Venice as
a honourable soldier and a worthy leader. Othello’s breakdown results
in the muder of his wife Desdemona. Desdemona is representative of
the good in nature. Good can be defined as forgiving, honest,
innocent and unsuspecting. The evil contained within Othello is by no
means magical or mythical yet is represented by the character Iago.
Iago is cunning, untrustworthy, selfish, and plotting. He uses these
traits to his advantage by slowly planning his own triumph while
watching the demise of others. It is this that is Iago’s motivation.
The ultimate defeat of good by the wrath of evil. Not only is it in
his own nature of evil that he suceeds but also in the weaknesses of
the other characters. Iago uses the weaknesses of Othello,
specifically jealousy and his devotion to things as they seem, to
conquer his opposite in Desdemona. From the start of the play, Iago’s
scheming ability is shown when he convinces Roderigo to tell about
Othello and Desdemonda’s elopement to Desdemona’s father, Brabantio.
Confidentally Iago continues his plot successfully, making fools of
others, and himself being rewarded. Except Roderigo, no one is aware
of Iago’s plans. This is because Iago pretends to be an honest man
loyal to his superiors. The fact that Othello himself views Iago as
trustworthy and honest gives the evil within Iago a perfect
unsuspecting victim for his schemes. The opportunity to get to
Desdemona through Othello is one temptation that Iago cannot refuse.
He creates the impression that Desdemona is having an affair with
Cassio in order to stir the jealousy within Othello. It is this
jealousy and the ignorance of Othello that lead to the downfall of
Desdemona; the one truely good natured character in the play.
As the play opens we are immediately introduced to the
hostility of Iago against Othello. Iago has been appointed the
position of servant to Othello instead of the more prestigous position
of lieutenant. Michael Cassio has been appointed this position. Iago
feels betrayed because he considers him self more qualified than
Cassio to serve as lieutenant. Iago then foreshadows his plans for
Othello to Roderigo, “O, sir, content you. / I follow him to serve my
turn upon him (Act I, Scene I)”. Iago already realizes that Othello
thinks about him as an honest man. Roderigo is used by Iago as an
apprentence and someone to do his “dirty” work. Roderigo is naively
unsuspecting. As the play shifts from Venice to Cyprus there is an
interesting contrast. Venice, a respectful and honourable town is
overshadowed by the war torn villages of Cyprus. It could be said
that Venice represents good or specfically Desdemona and that Cyprus
represents evil in Iago. Desdemona has been taken from her
peacefullness and brought onto the grounds of evil. Iago commits his
largest acts of deceit in Cyprus, fittingly considering the
atmosphere. Ironically, the venetians feel the Turks are their only
enemy while in fact Iago is in hindsight the one man who destroys
their stable state. Act II Scene III shows Iago’s willing ability to
manipulate characters in the play. Iago convinces Montano to inform
Othello of Cassio’s weakness for alchohol hoping this would rouse
disatisfaction by Othello. Iago when forced to tell the truth against
another character does so very suspiciously. He pretends not to
offend Cassio when telling Othello of the fight Cassio was involved
in, but Iago secretly wants the worst to become of Cassio’s situation
without seeming responsible. Cassio is relieved of his duty as
lieutenant. With Cassio no longer in the position of lieutenant, this
gives Iago the opportunity to more effectively interact with and
manipulate Othello. By controlling Othello, Iago would essentially
control Desdemona.

To reach Desdemona directly is unforseeable for Iago
considering that Othello is superior to him. It is for this reason
that Iago decides to exploit Othello. If Iago can turn Othello
against his own wife he will have defeated his opposition. Act III
Scene III, is very important because it is the point in the play where
Iago begins to establish his manipulation of Othello. Cassio feels
that it is necessary to seek the help of Desdemona in order to regain
his position of lieutenant and therefore meets with her to discuss
this possibility. Iago and Othello enter the scene just after Cassio
leaves, and Iago witfully trys to make it look like Cassio left
because he does not want to be seen in the courtship of Desdemona.
Iago sarcastically remarks :
Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it
That he would steal away so guilty-like,
Seeing your coming.

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(Act III, Scene III)
When Desdemona leaves, Iago takes the opportunity to strengthen
Othello’s views of honesty and trust towards him by saying ironically,
“Men should be what they seem; / Or those that be not, would they
might seem none! ” (Act III, Scene III). This cleverness by Iago
works upon one of the tragic flaws of Othello. Othello has a tendency
to take eveything he sees and everything he is told at face value
without questioning the circumstances. Iago wonders why someone would
pretend to be something they are not, while in fact that is the exact
thing he represents. Finally, after hearing the exploits of Iago and
witnessing the events surrounding Cassio, Othello for the first time
is in conflict about what is the truth. This is the first stage of
Iago’s scheme to control Othello.As Emilia becomes suspicious about
Othello’s development of jealousy, Desdemona defends her husband by
blaming herself for any harm done. This once again shows Desdemona’s
compassion and willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband.
Othello begins to show his difficulty in maintaining his composure :
Well, my good lady. O, hardness to dissemble —
How do you, Desdemona?
(Act III, Scene IV)
Act IV, Scene I is a continuation of the anxiety and indifference
Othello is under going. Iago takes advantage of this by being blunt
with Othello about his wife Desdemona. Iago suggests that she is
having sexual relations with other men, possibly Cassio, and continues
on as if nothing has happened. This suggestions put Othello into a
state of such emotional turmoil that he is lost in a trance. Iago’s
control over Othello is so strong now that he convinces him to
consider getting rid of Desdemona and even suggests methods of killing
her. Iago, so proud of his accomplishments of underhandedness :
Work on.

My med’cine works! Thus credulous fools are caught,
And many worthy and chaste dames even thus,
All guiltless, meet reproach.
(Act IV, Scene I)
Othello in this state commits his first act of violence against
Desdemona by hitting her. This as a result of Desdemona’s mention of
Cassio. This shows now Othello’s other tragic flaw. He made himself
susceptable to Iago and the jealousy within him begins to lead to the
demise of others. By his actions Othello has isolated himself from
everyone except Iago. This gives Iago the perfect opportunity to
complete his course of action. Iago does not tolerate any
interference in his plans, and he first murders Roderigo before he can
dispell the evil that Iago represents. Finally, Othello, so full of
the lies told to him by Iago murders his wife. Desdemona,
representative of goodness and heaven as a whole blames her death on
herself and not Othello. Iago’s wife, Emilia, becomes the ultimate
undoing of Iago. After revealing Iago’s plot to Othello, Iago kills
her. This is yet another vicious act to show the true evil Iago
represents. Othello finally realizes after being fooled into murder :
I look down towards his feet — but that’s a fable
If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee.

(Act V, Scene II)
Iago says “I bleed, sir, but not killed”, this is the final statement
by Iago himself that truely shows his belief in evil and that he
truely thinks he is the devil. That is the destruction of all that is
good. Hell over heaven and black over white.
Iago, as a representation of evil, has one major motivational
factor that leads him to lie, cheat, and commit crimes on other
characters. This motivation is the destruction of all that is good
and the rise of evil. This contrast is represented between Iago and
Desdemona. Desdemona is described frequently by other characters as
“she is divine, the grace of heaven” (Act II, Scene I), while Iago in
contrast is described as hellish after his plot is uncovered. Iago
uses the other characters in the play to work specifically towards his
goal. In this way, he can maintain his supposed unknowingness about
the events going on and still work his scheming ways. Iago’s schemes
however at times seem to work unrealistically well which may or may
not be a case of witchcraft or magic. Iago’s major mistake,
ironically, is that he trusted his wife Emilia and found that she was
not as trustworthy as he thought. Although not completely victorious
at the conclusion of the play, Iago does successfully eliminate the
one character representative of heaven, innocence, and honesty. Yet
“remains the censure of this hellish villian” (Act V, Scene II).
Finally, everything Iago pretended to be led to his demise : Honesty,
Innocence, and Love.


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