Finally, the most effective way Iago poisons Othello’s mind is by changing the appearance of reality. He will cover it up with lies and Othello will be forced to believe him because he will be too submerged in doubt and suspicion to see the truth. In act 3, scene 3, when Cassion parts from Desdemona, Iago makes it appear as if Cassio “steal away so guilty-like”(Shakespeare, act 3, scene 3) because he did not want to be seen with Desdemona. While it appears really bad from Othello point of view, the reality of it is completely different.
Cassio, who has been demoted, wishes to gain back his good will with Othello with Desdemona’s help. Iago tricks Othello by making him believe that every seemingly harmless encounter between Cassio and Desdemona are actually lies and that they are seeing each other behind his back. To the readers of the play it is quite obvious the nature of their encounter but to Othello who judges with eyes clouded by jealousy, he can only see the harm being done. Othello is unable to make a rational decision because he is too deep in madness. Iago has poisoned his mind and ruined his judgement.
To further poison Othello’s mind, Iago will set up Cassio and Othello. In act 4, scene 1, while Othello is hidden in the shadows; Iago approaches Cassio and starts a conversation with him. Othello believes the base of the conversation will be about his wife Desdemona because it is what Iago told him he would do: interrogate Cassio about Desdemona. But the reality of it is different. Iago is actually talking to Cassio about Bianca. Othello is caught up in the illusion; he now truly believes that Desdemona is unfaithful towards him. Jealousy clouds one’s mind.
Othello in able to see that Iago is playing him; he is too deep in his own illusions to notice that he is being used. Because Othello’s judgement is clouded, Iago is able to make things appear differently. With his rational thinking gone, Othello is incapable of differencing reality from lies. The more he is poison, the more he degrades. His speech deteriorates, he has epileptic attacks and burst into rage. His actions are proof of his mental state. He is turmoil because of what Iago has made him believe, because of what Iago has made him see.
Not only does Iago make scenes appear differently, he himself is an example of appearance vs. reality. Trough out the eyes of the other characters in the play, Iago appears “full of love and honesty”; Othello even says that “Iago is most honest”. In Criminal Types in Shakespeare, August Goll cites: “Iago appears to every one as the clever head, the man who knows the world and sees things clearly, who describes things as he sees them without mincing matters-the free-spoken, honest friend bold and rough: for this reason they all seek him in their various difficulties, Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia, Roderigo. (Goll, 218) Iago makes himself appear intentioned to the feeling of others. When they are faced with difficulties he offers them advices. Othello looks to Iago for advice on how to deal with the situation he faces, he asks him to help him in his vengeance. Iago true personality is someone who is egocentric, full of malice. He only thinks about himself. He does not help the Moor with good intention; he believes that he cheated with his wife and thus wishes to get his revenge. He does not give advice to Cassio because he feels obliged to help a comrade; he does it to fulfill his plan.
To conclude, Iago is one of Shakespeare most vile villain. He made Othello fall into despair; he made him believe that Desdemona was unfaithful to him when it was nothing but lies. He used many tricks to poison Othello’s mind, he became his friend with him and trick him, and he withheld information from him and made things appear differently. With his superior intellect, he manipulated Othello like a puppet. Manipulators are among us. Would you be able to tell if you were manipulated?
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