How does Iago convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity? Analysis

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Throughout the play Iago uses many different techniques and methods to win character’s over, get them thinking about things they would not have otherwise and generally fool them.

Iago does this to such an extent that he can get other characters to even commit murder. Iago is able to fool people to such an extent largely due to his intelligence, his acting, his way with words and his opportunism. To be able to convince a man of his wife’s infidelity you have to have a strong relationship with him, which is what Iago does. Their relationship is very interesting, it starts as Iago being Othello’s ancient, but he soon becomes his best friend and influences him greatly.

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From the beginning we know that Iago has no problem lying to Othello. In Act 1 Scene 2, Othello’s first appearance, Iago Is feigning concern that Othello might be punished for the marriage: ‘The magnifico…

He will divorce you.’ This shows the audience that Iago does not like Othello and is already trying to fool him and make him wary of things he need not be wary of. However it is Othello’s reaction that is interesting, at this point he is very confident and does not take much notice of Iago’s trickery, he replies to Iago’s lying with ‘Let him (Brabantio) do this in spite, my services..

. shall out-tongue his complaints.’ This is a very powerful and sharp answer to Iago which shows that at the beginning of the play their relationship is not that friendly.Othello’s relationship with his lieutenant Cassio, in this same scene, seems much more friendly ‘My lieutenant, the goodness of the night upon you, friends.

‘ This shows Othello addresses Cassio as a friend rather than a colleague. Unlike Iago whom Othello addresses by his first name ‘For know, Iago’ rather than by ‘friend’ as he did to Cassio. I believe that Iago is very jealous of Cassio’s relationship with Othello. Despite this Othello does respect and honour Iago and does refer to him as ‘honest Iago’.

This shows Othello trusts Iago and believes he is honest, thus Iago’s lying is working, and he begins to pull the wool over Othello’s eyes.In the beginning of the play Othello’s relationship with Desdemona is a very loving and happy one. In Act 1 Scene 3 Othello states ‘She loves me..

. And I love her.’ And Desdemona says ‘I love him.’ Desdemona goes against her father’s wishes and marries and leaves to Cyprus with Othello; this shows that they are in a very loving and faithful relationship.

They also greet each other very lovingly, for example in Act 2 Scene 1 Othello states ‘O my fair warrior!’ and Desdemona replies ‘My dear Othello.’ This is a stark contrast to the way Iago acted when his wife Emilia entered the play, he did not even acknowledge her, instead he started talking about her constant nagging. Once again I believe that Iago is jealous of Othello’s relationship with Desdemona as it is far more loving, young, fresh and happy than his and Emilia’s relationship. These are a few reasons why Iago would try to ruin Othello and convince him of his wife’s infidelity.

Another way of knowing of Othello’s confidence and importance in the beginning of the play is in the language. Generally in Shakespeare the type of language used separates different classes. More important people speak in verse. As in Act 1 Scene 3 where the powerful Duke and Brabantio, a wealthy noble are speaking in rhyming verse.

The Duke states:The griefs are ended…Which late on hopes depended.

..When fortune takes..

.A mock’ry makes.And Brabantio replies with rhyming couplets of ‘beguile..

.smile’ and ‘sorrow…

borrow ‘. In addition Othello, although does not use rhyming couplets, speaks in verse with a definite poetical flow when read out:’It is most true; true I have married her…

‘ ‘Rude am I in speech, and little blessed with the soft phrase of peace,’ The fact that Othello is speaking in verse and with such fluency under the pressure of court shows that he is very much in control.A key part of Iago’s plan is to take Cassio’s position as Othello’s Lieutenant. This not only because he is still bitter about Cassio getting the job ahead of him, but it also gives Iago the opportunity to get very close to Othello and thus achieve his main goal of virtually destroying Othello. To become Lieutenant Iago as always uses several people in an elaborate plan.

He uses Roderigo to start the fight and himself gets Cassio drunk against his will and convinces firstly Montano of Cassio’s alcoholism, he states ‘To cure him (Cassio) of this evil (alcohol).’And then he convinces Othello of Cassio’s guiltiness, Iago states ‘Cassio following him with determined sword to execute upon him.’ This is a key part of how Iago convinces Othello of his wife’s infidelity. As without Iago being Lieutenant he would never have got so friendly with Othello, so much so that Othello trusted Iago with his life and his marriage.

Othello stays in control roughly up until Act 3 Scene 2 which is the last time I believe he is in full control of his language. This scene is pivotal in the play, it is at the point where Iago’s plan can go either way, succeed or fail. In Act 3 Scene 2 Othello has not yet been introduced to the idea of his wife’s infidelity, thus he is still in control. In this scene he is giving out orders to Iago and treating him more in a professional rather than friendly sense.

Othello states ‘These letters give, Iago, to the pilot… do my duties to the senate.

.. repair there to me.’ In the following scene Iago first suggests to Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity.

He doesn’t just burst out and accuse Desdemona and Cassio; instead he slyly plants the seed in Othello’s head by suggesting Cassio’s departure, on sight of Othello, to be ‘guilty-like’.Just this mere comment immediately changes Othello’s behaviour and language. He no longer speaks in fluent verse; instead he asks Desdemona lots of short sharp questions and is very hurried and aggressive. Othello states ‘Who is’t you mean?.

.. Went he hence now?’ Also he no longer greets his wife with the same glee and goes on to refuse to come to dinner with her, ‘not now, some other time..

. No, not tonight…

I shall not dine at home.’ This immediate change in Othello’s whole persona suggests that he took Iago’s bait and instantly believed him; Iago’s seed had started to grow.Another way that I can tell that Othello has started to be convinced by Iago, is that he speaks far more in soliloquies; unlike before when he never spoke in soliloquy. For example in Act 3 Scene 3 when Iago leaves Othello on his own he embarks on a soliloquy until his wife enters, ‘This fellow’s exceeding honesty.

..’ This is also another ironic reference to Iago’s supposed honesty. In this soliloquy Othello curses his once sacred and happy marriage and talks about the issue of race and how Desdemona might cheat on him because he’s black and feels he is less capable than a white man (Cassio): ‘Haply for I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation.

‘ ‘She’s gone… O curse of marriage.

‘ The fact that Othello has started even speaking in soliloquy suggests he is insecure and worried about himself and Desdemona.Throughout the play Iago uses many different verbal techniques to make Othello suspicious of Cassio, especially in Act 3 Scene 3 in which Iago demonstrates his array of verbal skills. Firstly Iago often urges Othello not to take any particular course of action in the knowledge that he is putting the idea into Othello’s head. For example in Act 3 Scene 3 Iago states ‘I am to pray you not to strain my speech to grosser issues, nor to larger reach than to suspicion.

‘Iago uses this to really confuse Othello and get him thinking deeply and in many ways about his wife’s supposed infidelity and what he should do. Also by not giving Othello clear instructions it does not reveal Iago’s plan and make it obvious that he is lying. Iago also covers himself and always pulls out from a direct accusation of infidelity with a polite or apologetic remark, for example in the same scene Iago states ‘Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural’ and follows it with ‘But pardon me, I do not in position distinctly speak of her (Desdemona).’ Iago does this to cover his back a bit and not make it obvious that he is accusing Desdemona.

Another technique Iago uses is to make Othello feel like a fool for listening to Iago and believing in his wife’s infidelity. Again in the same scene Iago states ‘Long live she (Desdemona) so. And long live you to think so.’ This makes Othello doubt himself and decreases his confidence and self-esteem.

This in turn leads him to get doubts about other people, for example, Desdemona; it also makes him less trustworthy of other people. Another technique Iago uses is to make Othello feel inferior and alien through race and class etc. For example in Act 3 Scene 3, Iago draws attention to Desdemona’s origins etc. ‘Of her (Desdemona) own clime, complexion, and degree.

‘ In this quotation Iago refers to the differences between Othello and Desdemona.Iago states ‘clime’ this is referring to Desdemona’s European origins, which are unlike Othello’s African origins. He also mentions ‘complexion’ here he is referring to the difference between their skin colour (black and white). Iago also refers to ‘degree’ this is stating the difference in background and class between the two, Desdemona being a senator’s daughter and Othello’s parentage being unknown (the fact he’s black suggests his parents were not nobility or upper class).

All of these differences that have been cunningly included by Iago make Othello feel very uncomfortable and insecure, we know this from his ‘Haply I am black…’ soliloquy just after in the same scene.

One other technique Iago uses is to pounce on opportunities when Othello shows some signs of weakness. For example in Act 3 Scene 3 Othello has been denying the possibility of his wife’s infidelity until he states ‘And yet, how nature erring from itself…

‘ Othello does not even get to finish the sentence before Iago jumps in and pounces on his opportunity: ‘Ay there’s the point; as (to be bold with you)…’ This shows Iago uses lots of opportunism to convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity.

Another way Iago convinces Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity is by obtaining the handkerchief to which he frames Cassio. Iago does this by using people once again, this time it is Emilia whom he gets to steal the handkerchief. This handkerchief is important in Iago’s plans as it is his only piece of evidence to show Othello to back up his accusations.As Iago’s plan succeeds Othello’s language and behaviour deteriorates also, in almost parallel.

Othello starts to use the most brutal language to describe Desdemona’s supposed activities; he also becomes very angry and aggressive. Towards the end of Act 3 Scene 3 Othello states ‘Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore…

Thou hadst better have been born a dog than answer my naked wrath!’ This quotation shows that Othello is no longer content with sitting back and doing nothing he wants to act fast but needs some proof. This is also the first time in the play that Othello has become aggressive and started using threats this shows deterioration from his previous rather mellow behaviour and his mental state is becoming unstable. These changes coincide with Iago’s plan coming together.Othello’s increasing loss of control is reflected also in his language in Act 3 Scene 4, with short, sharp sentences ‘Ha? Wherefore? .

.. Say you? ..

. How?’ These abrupt sentences reflect his mental state and show he is very tense, on edge and generally unstable/out of control. In the same piece of speech Othello makes several references to the handkerchief, which Iago has got and is using in his plan, Othello states ‘Fetch’t, let me see it..

. fetch me the handkerchief! …

The handkerchief!’ These obsessive references reflect once again Othello’s unstable mental state all due to Iago.By the end of Act 3 Scene 4 Iago has efficiently put into practice his plan to plant the handkerchief on Cassio. This is a major part in fooling Othello as it is the only real piece of evidence Iago has to back up his accusations, and without it you could question whether his overall plan would have succeeded.A key moment in convincing Othello is where Iago persuades him to eavesdrop and overhear what he thought were Cassio’s boasts about his affair with Desdemona.

This is a very degrading scene for Othello as Iago makes him conceal himself in a corner at a whim only to completely fool him and lie to him about what Cassio is saying. Iago also uses crude monosyllables to face Othello up to the physical side of Desdemona’s alleged infidelity, he states ‘He hath, and is again to cope your wife.’ A bit of good fortune falls Iago’s way when Bianca enters the eavesdropping scene with Othello’s beloved handkerchief and as usual Iago’s opportunistic skills come in to play, he pounces on this ‘And did you (Othello) see that handkerchief? ..

. He (Cassio) hath given it to his whore.) Iago uses quite brash language to describe Bianca to enrage Othello as she has his handkerchief.Othello is totally convinced of his wife’s infidelity by Iago by the end of Act 4 Scene 1.

Othello shows his transformation by striking Desdemona, something no one could have envisaged from their once love filled relationship. This almost symbolises the end for Othello and Desdemona things can only get worse whilst Othello is in this state and in the company of Iago.In conclusion Iago convinces Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity in a number of ways. He ‘plants the seed’ in Othello’s mind, he shows him some supposed evidence (the handkerchief) and he generally degrades him through his language and opportunism.

If perhaps Othello had not been open to persuasion then he might not have been convinced. However I believe, because of Othello and Desdemona’s obvious differences and Othello’s slight insecurity, their relationship was always destined for disaster.

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How does Iago convince Othello of Desdemona’s infidelity? Analysis. (2017, Oct 30). Retrieved from

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