Manipulation is a powerful skill. It causes people to lose trust in friends, doubt themselves, and, in some cases, murder someone they love. In the play Othello by William Shakespeare, Iago, a master of manipulation, causes the protagonist, Othello, to lose trust in his faithful wife, Desdemona, even pushing him to the point of murdering her. Iago successfully convinces Othello to doubt Desdemona and later murder her through his genius use of rhetoric and manipulation.
Iago’s use of vivid imagery and story-telling gives Othello the impression that Desdemona is unfaithful. Iago begins his manipulation by getting Othello to visualize the affair. When Othello doubts Iago’s implication of Desdemona’s fickleness, Iago portrays the relationship in a bestial manner by saying,
Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys,
As salt as wolves in pride…
As ignorance made drunk (Shakespeare. 3.3.404-406.)
Iago uses this vulgar comparison to make Desdemona seem like an insatiable creature. When he says this, Othello immediately thinks of animals and a lack control over physical actions. He associates this with Desdemona, thus causing him to believe Desdemona a whore. When Iago mentions “drunk,” Othello is led into the idea of debauchery. This word gives the impression that Desdemona contains little self-control and makes rash decisions. Iago also uses his rhetoric skills to create an outlandish fable about a dream Cassio had,
In sleep I heard him say, “Sweet Desdemona,
Let us be wary, let us hide our loves!”
And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
Cry, “O sweet creature!” then kiss me hard, (3. 3.418-422.)
While this story would be unbelievable to most, Othello already holds doubts about Desdemona’s faithfulness, therefore he finds it plausible. The phrase Iago uses, “kiss me hard,” gives the impression that Cassio is passionate about Desdemona. It also alludes to the idea of Desdemona and Cassio maintain a physical relationship. In Iago’s wording he creates the impression of Desdemona and Cassio’s relationship being illicit by saying, “wary” and “hide”. Through Iago’s language, Othello becomes more convinced of Desdemona and Cassio’s affair.
Iago uses the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona as a tool to further manipulate him. This handkerchief holds a significant place in Othello and Desdemona’s relationship because it was Othello’s first gift to Desdemona. To Othello, the handkerchief symbolizes their love to one another. Iago recognizes this and spends time trying to obtain it use it against Desdemona. When he does attain it, he casually brings it up in his and Othello’s conversation, saying,
… but such a handkerchief-
I am sure it was your wife’s- did I today
See Cassio wipe his bear with. (Shakespeare 3.3.437-439.)
The handkerchief means much to Othello....