In the play “Othello” by William Shakespeare, a close look at the characters is being taken. Othello, Cassio and Iago are very different people with their own life experiences and this plays a very important role in the play. Each of them was raised uniquely and this makes up their individuality and how they judge themselves and others around them.
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From the beginning, both Othello and Cassio are wrong about Iago. Cassio says that Iago is brave and Othello thinks that Iago is honest. When Iago offers Cassio a drink but Cassio says he does not want because he will get drunk, Iago continues to ask him to drink and after a few phrases Cassio agrees: “Not tonight, good Iago; I have a very poor and unhappy brains for drinking.” (Kean 25). This shows that Cassio is a kind and not very strong character because he agrees to have a drink, even while he says that he does not want to. Iago uses Cassio’s good side and kind heart. After the fight when Iago talks to Cassio and tells him that it is not his fault that he was drunk and had a fight, Cassio thank Iago for his help: “Ypu advise me well” and Iago answers: “I protest, in the sincerely of love and honest kindness.” Cassio responds: “Good night, honest Iago.” (32). This shows that Cassio was raised to be a kind person and trust everyone. He cannot even think that Iago has evil plans. Even though Cassio is seen as a positive character who is trying to be good and respectful to other people, he is shown as lacking character and strength of will. He believes everything he is told and cannot judge people and their motives. His judgment of people’s individuality is very topical; he is not able to look deep into a person and find out their emotions. Also, he cannot think that there are people who might do things because they are evil and want to accomplish their greedy ways. This represents the fact that he does not have a lot of life experience. A person learns that there are good and bad people by having dealings with them. By being hurt and betrayed a person starts to understand that there are those who want to hurt others for selfish reasons. Cassio was raised to be kind and never had dealings with “bad” men and this is why he believes Iago. If Cassio had more experience in life, he would understand that everything in the world is not that simple and he would change.
Othello on the other hand is shown as a very strong character. He has a lot of life experience in battle and dealings with other people. His own principles are based on respect, control and fairness. If something is done for evil reasons or someone who did not deserve it gets hurt, he will do anything to punish that person and make sure that the good character is rewarded Othello trusts Iago to guard him, saying that “Iago is most honest” (24) and this shows that he never took time or attention to take a closer look at the people who surround him. He is so sure that no one wants to harm him and that he is always right and noble that he cannot even imagine that one of his closest soldiers, with who he has been in battles, is plotting against him. This happened because he does not know the emotional side of Iago and he never took the interest to look deeper into his character. At the same time it is hard for him to imagine that a man can be pretending and acting with such ease and because of this he trusts Iago. Othello believes Iago and his expression of friendship, loyalty and love and is fooled by the way Iago tries to protect and explain the reasons why Cassio was in the fight. Othello cannot even think that Iago is using this situation in his favor and is lying, by saying “I know Iago, Thy Honesty and love doth mince this matter” (30). But Othello still trusts only his judgment and decides things his own way. He is shown as very quick to judge. After the fight that Cassio has Othello cannot think reasonably, which illustrates that he is very easily angered and can lose his control. Also, he is blinded by his strong love for Desdemona. He realizes that she is beautiful ad his jealousy takes a hold of him (Bradley 100). This can be seen when Iago tells him how quickly Cassio leaves after a talk with Desdemona. Such a little thing is enough for Othello to start thinking about the worst that could possibly happen. When Iago tells him that Cassio and Desdemona are involved with each other, Othello does not take the time and care to see what is really happening. He does not ask anyone, he cannot see the truth or reason. This shows that he is very used to trusting his opinion. Throughout his life, this happened because he was rarely wrong and his right thoughts and actions were often rewarded. The battles that he had gave him confidence that he is lucky and strong and that God is helping him. It is made for a purpose, to show that he is very opposite when compared to Cassio. Othello is strong and very determined for action, whereas Cassio is shown as a young and weak character. This contrast makes Othello look even “bigger” in the eyes of others but his own as well. It is a very interesting fact that he trusts Iago and all he says and this means that even though Othello had a lot of experience in life and battle, he cannot notice little things in another person and realize that he is being lied to. His experience did not help him this time.
Iago is a very good actor. He is smart in the way that he knows other people and their characters. He understands exactly that Cassio is a “ladies’ man” and he uses this to his advantage. Also as soon as he hears that Cassio gets drunk very easily, right away he uses it to set Othello against him by staging a fight. This proves that he is not stupid and can think quickly at the moment when something happens. He comes up with a story very effectively and uses every situation to his benefit. Iago is a good actor because he had a lot of experience with people. He had a chance to observe them and he understands and sees the weak sides of a person. Iago can use this weaker side of others for his benefit and it is obvious that he has done it many times before; he has experience in the manipulation of people. But at the same time “chance” helps him very much. All the situations that he uses against Cassio and Othello appear almost by themselves. Iago does not do a lot of planning before something happens. He patiently waits and when the situation comes up by itself he uses it with full benefit.
These three characters are shown to be very different and it becomes ironic how both weak and strong can be lied to, while evil dominates and get his way.
Bradley, Andrew. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Middlesex, United Kingdom: The Echo Library, 1908. Print.
Kean, Edmund. Shakespeare’s Othello, London, United Kingdom: T. Rodwell, 1818. Print.
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