Honesty In Othello Essay

1480 words - 6 pages

In the play Othello, by Shakespeare, one of Shakespeare’s main themes is “honesty.” We see very little instances in the play where pure honesty is played out. In Steve Cassal’s essay, he examines “honesty” in the play, and how this virtue is expressed in the characters. The play conceals true honesty until it ultimately is revealed after tragic events occur. Through the play, Shakespeare uncovers that true honesty is rare because nobody is purely honest until tragedy strikes.
Iago, the most villainous of the characters, is seen as disguising his honesty with wicked acts. Ironically, Iago is described by many of the characters as, “honest Iago,” even though that is a completely false ...view middle of the document...

Our general’s wife is now the general. I may say so in this respect, for that he hath devoted and given up himself to the contemplation, mark, and denotement of her parts and graces. Confess yourself freely to her” (2.3.308-312). As illustrated, Iago is telling Cassio to speak to Desdemona to convince her to speak to Othello for Cassio, so then Othello will assume that Desdemona is cheating with Cassio. This evil scheme that Iago plays out is clear evidence that honesty is extremely scarce. Furthermore, Iago tells Roderigo that he will do everything he can to get Desdemona to leave Othello, so Roderigo can have Desdemona all to himself. Iago says, “Come, sir, I am for you” (1.2.58), even though that is a complete lie. Iago here manipulates Roderigo by pretending he is looking out for his best interests. He makes Desdemona’s father, Barbantio, angry with Othello and Desdemona by telling him about their elopement. Iago then leaves Roderigo to take blame for his actions, and notifies Othello that Roderigo is responsible for telling Barbantio about the relationship. All of Iago’s actions here significantly illustrate how easy Iago makes it to disguise his honesty. The characters do not seem to notice Iago’s dishonesty and instead they praise him for being so “honest,” which exemplifies just how capable Iago is at masking his pure and honest self. Of course towards the end of the play, “Iago has already been proved a ‘notorious villain’ (Cassal 132), and his pure self is finally shown once tragedy strikes. When Emilia finds Desdemona murdered in her bed, Emilia tells Othello and others, “Disprove this villain, if thou be’st a man. He says though told’st him that his wife was false. I know thou did’st not; thou’rt not such a villain” (5.2.173-175). As illustrated, Emilia finally says that these unfortunate events are all Iago’s fault because he is the villain here. Emilia’s words are what ultimately help everyone discover Iago’s villainous and manipulative self. His devious acts and him backstabbing almost every character in the play prove that he is the primary character who is best at disguising his true self, thus honesty being extremely infrequent throughout the play.
Surprisingly, Emilia, who is known to be one of the most truthful characters, fabricates lies. Even though towards the end of the play “Emilia may be the new symbol of honesty” (Cassal 132), and “redefines ‘honesty’ for women in the play” (Cassal 134), previously had been significantly dishonest. When Desdemona is looking for her handkerchief, she asks, “Where should I lose that handkerchief, Emilia?” (3.4.23-24), and Emilia answers, “I know not, madam” (3.4.25), which is a complete lie. Emilia stole the handkerchief that Othello had given Desdemona, simply because she was trying to please her husband and clearly because she felt the need to be obedient to him. This proves that even Emilia was untrustworthy in the play, which is why honesty is so rare. Ultimately, once tragedy hits,...

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