At first glance, Othello seems simply a tragedy of jealousy, just as Macbeth is a tragedy of ambition. It is easy to imagine that Shakespeare decided to explore several exciting and dangerous passions and warn the audience against them. However, the ideas ingrained in the play seem to be broader and more complicated from the very first acts, where we meet Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Iago, and Rodrigo.
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In Cyprus, during the second act, rejoicing at his marriage to a woman he loves, Othello invites all the island inhabitants to feast. Iago uses this for his insidious plans: at night, he advises Rodrigo to disguise himself as a soldier and become one of the palace guards. When the guards come to check on Cassio, Rodrigo must start a quarrel with him. Thus, Iago frames poor Cassio as he makes him get into a fight with Rodrigo. Cassio also wounds the dignitary, Montano. Having learned about it, Othello dismisses Cassio. Moreover, Iago instills in the upset Cassio the idea of seeking leniency from Othello through his wife. Iago knows: kind-hearted Desdemona will not remain indifferent to Cassio’s request. So there will be a reason to persuade Othello that his wife is not faithful.
Iago’s character is a combination of cunning cruelty and incredible logic that accompanies all his actions. The lieutenant calculates every step ahead, guided in his intrigues by an accurate knowledge of psychology. He catches Rodrigo on a passionate love for Desdemona, Othello on the fear of losing the harmony that he found in a relationship with a Venetian, Cassio on kindness and natural naivety. Therefore, the images and the play’s very structure emphasize the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, where Othello is light rather than dark, despite his physical appearance, because his dignity is his soul. Iago is dark, then, who will also make fair Desdemona fade and darken, vilifying her virtue.