Iago Mastery of Reputation

11 July 2018

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” (Axia Public Relations). Living in any society, reputation plays a great role in a person’s success and course of their life. Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice illustrates a villainous character seeking revenge. The antagonist character Iago plans to ruin the protagonist character Othello’s marriage in order to seek revenge for the promotion he did not get from Othello. Iago uses various characters in the play to work against others. He does just that by using fictional reputation of each other to bend the truth to favor his liking. In a hieratical, society reputation is everything. Iago uses various way to use reputation to take control of the situation. He even disguises his own reputation to appear as a trustworthy friend to Othello, so he could easily convince him to do what he wants. Iago uses false reputations of characters in the play The Tragedy of Othello to his advantage, in order to deceive other characters to gain revenge on Othello.

Iago gives a fake reputation to appear trustworthy amongst other characters to help him achieve his vengeance to Othello. Iago and Rodrigo, at the beginning of the story shows deep hatred against Othello, his higher ranked general, because he has given the promotion of lieutenancy to a man named Michael Cassio from Florence. He expresses his motive to Rodrigo that “we cannot all be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly followed” (1.1.7-55). Othello, until he has understood Iago’s motive, shows trust to Iago across the play as Iago intended. Many times, Othello referees Iago as “honest Iago” (1.3.295). Othello even describes to the Duke that Iago is “A man he is of honest and trust” (1.3.285). Iago performs as a trustworthy character as Othello finds Iago as an honest and trustworthy man. Othello does have a positive image of Iago that being Iago is a good friend that he can trust. By earning Othello’s trust, Iago would be able to effectively execute his plan against Othello. Iago is trusted by Othello and others as he as a good friend. He uses his reputation to appear not a threat but a friend that Othello can rely on.

Iago lures Desdemona’s father Brabantio into becoming furious against Othello by mocking Brabantio’s reputation. Iago plays with Brabantio’s reputation as a senator and a concerning father. Iago’s primary purpose is to get Brabantio to get in a fight with Othello to stop the marriage between Desdemona. Iago mocks Brabantio of her daughter’s attachment to a moor. Brabantio is informed that his daughter is marrying the moor and he is convinced that his daughter is stolen by the moor by some charms or magic. Iago successfully convinces Brabantio to move his army to rescue her daughter. (1.1.80-142) Iago uses Brabantio’s reputation as a white father and army senator to create an action to chase down Othello. Brabantio would have to respond to this news and Iago uses this for his own good. Iago aggregate a person’s emotion through insulting their reputation to control them as he desires.

Iago takes leverage of Rodrigo’s unfulfilled love for Desdemona by creating a fake profile of Cassio, so he can take control of Rodrigo to help with his revenge against Othello. Rodrigo is a character that is obsessed with Desdemona and continues to struggle to attain Desdemona’s heart from Othello, without having to make any progress. Iago uses Rodrigo’s jealousy to conflict with the false reputation Rodrigo have with Cassio. When they arrive in Cyprus along with Iago’s wife Emilia, Desdemona, Cassio, Iago claims to Roderigo that Desdemona will soon be tired of Othello and will fall in love with Cassio. Othello is ugly and Cassio is a young and handsome man. Desdemona already is falling for Cassio. (2.1.242-270) Through this false claim of Desdemona’s feeling for Cassio directs Rodrigo’s anger for unfulfilling love to Cassio. Iago succeeds to convince Roderigo to start a brawl with Cassio. (2.1.303-304) Iago continues to manipulate this character throughout the play giving false lies. Iago tells Roderigo Cassio is taking over Othello’s place to govern Cyprus and Othello is going to Africa with Desdemona. Iago convinces Rodrigo that in order to stop this from happening, he would need to create an incident that would linger them from going, which is killing Cassio. (4.2.242-275) Although Rodrigo is the only character that knows the vicious plans of Iago, he is also a character that given the false reputation of other characters. He has been faced to encounter to fight with Cassio twice and not only this action would not allow him to reach his goal but to only help with Iago’s plan. Iago deceives Rodrigo with lies to lure him to take action that Iago desire, using Rodrigo’s unfulfilled love towards Desdemona.

Iago takes advantage of Cassio’s tainted reputation to achieve his vengeance. Iago plots against Othello by using Cassio. Iago knew that Cassio is a huge drinker and characterize him as “rash and very sudden in choler, and haply may strike” (2.1.275-276). Iago plans with Rodrigo to get him drunk and start a quarrel between Rodrigo and Cassio. As Cassio become drunk, Rodrigo gets into a brawl with Cassio as planned. Cassio eventually gets in a fight with Rodrigo then accidentally stabs Montano. Othello enters and fires Cassio from his job as a lieutenant. Cassio being a promoted lieutenant, soon recognize his mistake and becomes deeply regretful of his immature actions. He has lost everything that he has worked for and cries “Reputation! Reputation! Reputation!” (2.3.281-284). As much as reputation was important for Cassio, Iago uses this need for acceptance to direct Cassio to gain acceptance through Desdemona, Othello’s wife, rather than Othello himself. (2.3.254–282) Iago expresses his idea of reputation. ”Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving. You have lost no reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser” (2.3.287–290). Iago argues to Cassio that reputation is often falsified and is not lost unless the person set themselves as loser. Laura Kolb in her article Jewel, Purse, Trash: Reckoning and Reputation in Othello, illustrates Iago’s understanding of reputation, that goes on, asserting that reputation cannot be lost without the individual loser’s admission of that loss. (241-242) Iago argues that reputation is what you make out of and can be controlled by that person. Iago is able to convince Cassio that his reputation can be fixed through Desdemona. This creates the perfect situation for Iago which Cassio’s huge disappointment in his drunken actions leads him to do whatever possible to regain his reputation. Iago has successfully achieved to destroy Cassio’s reputation and directing Cassio to Desdemona. Iago uses Cassio’s damaged reputation and uses it to his advantage.

Iago uses Othello’s intimate love between Desdemona by giving him the falsified reputation of her, which leads to making Othello jealous enough to plot to the murder of Desdemona. As Iago puts his mask as the honest Iago and discusses with Othello after being convinced by Desdemona to have Cassio back his position. Iago mentions signs of Desdemona cheating with Cassio to Othello and Othello becomes infuriated to get some real answers from hesitative Iago in The Tragedy of Othello of ACT 3 scene 3. Iago tells Othello that “Men should be what they seem; Or those that be not, would they might seem none!” (3.3.146-167). Iago tells that reputation should be transparent, and he tells this to avoid suspicion of himself. Othello is drawn even more toward suspicion against Cassio. Iago mentions about the handkerchief that he saw with Cassio, which is a handkerchief that Othello has given to Desdemona as a gift. Iago deceives Othello to make him think Desdemona is actually cheating on him, although it was Iago that transferred the handkerchief to Cassio. (3.3.491-504) Iago succeeds to plant false reputation of Cassio and Desdemona. Iago convinces Othello to agree to kill Desdemona “in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated” (4.1.225-230). American Journal of Psychotherapy from Haim Omer and Marcello Da Verona explains that “‘he that was Othello,’ the pure lover and noble general is no more and the avenging Othello is ‘reborn in Iago'” (101). Othello started from deeply being in the love with Desdemona into a jealous monster. Othello is convinced into Iago’s fake reputation of Desdemona and Cassio. By the time Othello is fully convinced, he has been already convinced to a point where he is going to commit a murder on his wife. Stronger Othello’s love is towards Desdemona, Othello is forced to seek the truth even stronger. He cannot blame Iago for being innocent and Iago’s story about Cassio having Desdemona’s handkerchief justified Othello that Desdemona is in fact cheating. By Cassio having Desdemona’s handkerchief, which Othello has specially gifted her, signify an intimate relationship. Iago uses Othello’s intimate love towards Desdemona’s made up reputation to make him create his own fall.

Iago deceives Emilia using the statue of a husband, in order to gain support from her. Although it is true that they are officially husband and wife, their relationship is not like Othello and Desdemona. Emilia succeeds to attain Desdemona’s handkerchief, as she was told by Iago to do so. Emilia knew that the handkerchief is a special handkerchief that is the first resemblance of Othello. Emilia continues “For he conjured her she should ever keep it, that she reserves it ever more about her. To kiss and talk to. I’ll have the work ta’en out, and give’t Iago: what he will do with it Heaven knows, not I; I nothing but to please his fantasy” (3.3.333-343). Not only she was ordered to steal a valuable merchandise from her dearest friend, she finds herself trapped in a marriage as a wife with Iago. Emilia plays along with Iago’s plan as her wifely duty, however, she chooses to defend Desdemona’s reputation at the end. Othello murders Desdemona and Emilia soon find out about his murder. (5.2.100-115) As Emilia intervenes with Othello about the motive of his murder, she discovers that Iago was the one who convincing Othello to murder his wife. She exposes the true reputation of Iago to Othello. (5.2.185-186) In the end, Emilia would be the one that would be tearing off the mask of Iago. “Tis proper I obey him, but not now. Perchance, Iago, I will ne’er go home” (5.2.195-196). In the article “The Libertarian of Emilia”, Solomon Iyasere notes “Emilia’s action is one Iago cannot tolerate, for in his narcissistic view of the world, her psychological freedom repudiates his existence and violates his psychic being; Iago’s freedom entails domination and control of others” (71). This moment where Emilia does not respond to her husband to be remain silent shows her liberation from her dominant husband. Iago throughout the play continues to control others by using false reputation and this time Iago notice that he cannot force his power on to her anymore. Iago’s reputation has been tainted by Emilia which leads Iago to kill his wife Emilia. (5.2.185-186, 280-285) Aside from her dishonest act of stealing from Desdemona’s handkerchief, she ended up sacrificing her life to protect Desdemona’s reputation. Emilia overcame her husband and she has chosen Desdemona’s reputation over her husband’s reputation. If she did not come out and pointed fingers at her husband, Desdemona’s reputation would have been kept as a whore that cheated on Cassio. Iago was able to be in control and succeed to execute his plan against Othello, although his reputation puts him in an alarmingly dangerous position. Emilia sees through the foul action of her husband and she tells the world that Iago is behind the scene pulling the string. Iago deceives Emilia as a husband, however, the Emilia’s truth has deceived Iago at the end.

Iago takes advantage of the reputations of different characters in the play of The Tragedy of

Othello in order to achieve his ultimate vengeance. Iago, in time, makes a character angry and making them cause an action by giving a false reputation of another character. Another time, Iago destroys a person’s reputation in order to achieve what he desires. Iago, however, keeps his reputation appear trustworthy to get closer to his goal. He has used the character’s love and jealousy to alter their course of action. He has even involved his wife by deceiving her. Through Iago’s manipulation of the reputation of different characters, he was able to bend the course of truth to achieve such notorious evil. Iago plays a key role in reputation in the play and actively uses it to achieve his goal. Reputation can change a person’s career, love life, social class, and even a person’s meaning in life. Reputation still plays a strong role in our society today, however, at the same time, reputation can be a lot easier to taint in our developed society. Today in our society, we have very handy tools such as social networking and the media that can greatly impact our reputation in seconds. As a civilized individual of the 21st century, we must be alerted to falsified reputation and work together to correct them before someone is deceived by the truth.

Works Cited

Axia Public Relations. “A Word or Two from Benjamin Franklin on Reputation.” Axia Public

Relations, www.axiapr.com/blog/benjamin-franklin-on-reputation

Kolb, Laura. Jewel, Purse, Trash: Reckoning and Reputation in Othello.

www.bing.com/cr?IG=B21DEB90489A41B0A944C2DE769D07D0&CID=284A39C93E1663FD3B4735E03FEB6281&rd=1&h=K5KMEfjIablXpdT9E5jPpSaLO9BqjLe-m6xX3lDDDbE&v=1&r=https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Jewel, purse, trash: reckoning and reputation in Othello.-a0470868780&p=DevEx.LB.1,5548.1.

Iyasere, Solomon. “The Liberation of Emilia.” Shakespeare in Southern Africa, vol. 21, Jan.

2009, pp. 69-72. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=45344675&site=ehost-live.

Omer, Haim and Marcello Da Verona. “Doctor Iago’s Treatment of Othello.” American Journal

of Psychotherapy, vol. 45, no. 1, Jan. 1991, p. 99. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=9602291030&site=ehost-live.

Shakespeare, William/ Mowat, Barbara A. (EDT)/ Werstine, Paul (EDT). The Tragedy of

Othello: The Moor of Venice. Pocket Books, 2017.

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