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Themes Of Deception In William Shakespeare's Othello

2682 words - 11 pages

Themes of Deception in William Shakespeare's Othello

Deception is one of the main themes running through Othello, along
with love, pride and society. Indeed, it is deception that provides
the fuel for the plot and deception that is leads to the classic
downfall of the 'hero' as is common in Shakespeare tragedies. We see
Macbeth and Hamlet both succumb to downfall.

perhaps the most obvious deception is Iago's deception. The principal
method that Iago uses to convince Othello of Desdemona´s infidelity is
by using one of Othello´s most treasured possessions and telling
Othello that his wife, Desdemona, has given it away to her lover,
Cassio. This treasured possession of Othello´s is a handkerchief,
which "Did an Egyptian to my mother give". The handkerchief is hugely
important to Othello because it is a link back to his mother who also
told Othello to give it to his wife. "She dying gave it me, And bid me
when my fate would have me wive, To give it her". So to Othello this
handkerchief symbolises their perfect union with an almost divine
quality, stating that it has "magic in the web of it". Iago tells
Othello that he saw Cassio wiping his mouth with it, much like a rag.
" I know not that; but such a handkerchief- I am sure it was your
wife´s- did I today. See Cassio wipe his beard with". This crass act,
enhanced by Iago's crass recounting of it, is deliberate to enrage
Othello. Deception can be subtle enough to filter into one's mind
where it grows until the mind is turned over and deceit rules.
Shakespeare is telling us that deception is a seed that must be
planted carefully but has the potential to grow monstrous.

Iago does not just use the handkerchief to convince Othello of
Desdemona´s unfaithfulness. Iago proves to be very good at
manipulating people and how they feel. At the beginning of the play
Iago successfully gets Roderigo to wake Brabantio and tell him of the
relationship between Othello and Desdemona. Brabantio learns of
Roderigo´s name but not of Iago´s. Iago also manages to manipulate
Othello, when talking of killing Cassio. Iago adds into the
conversation "But let her live". This sounds like Iago is trying to
save Desdemona, but more likely is that Iago is deliberately planting
the idea of killing Desdemona into Othello´s mind. Othello replies
with "Damn her, lewd minx. O damn her, damn her". From that reaction
we can tell that Iago has reminded Othello of what she has done, and
rather than agree with what he has said it sounds like he is more
determined to kill her. Iago has succeeded in condemning Desdemona to
death at Othello´s hands.

Iago´s effectiveness at noticing innocent situations and making them
look suspect is another way in which he gets Othello to believe of
Desdemona´s unfaithfulness. When Othello first enters the room at the
start...

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