A striking psychological transformation requiring commentary in Shakespeare’s Othello is the tragic homicidal intention of its protagonist in the third act. The Moor Othello, madly in love with his wife Desdemona, is convinced that she is unfaithful to him in just one scene, the third in act 3. The question is whether this is a dramatic convention used by the classical author, or whether the psychological background behind this transformation is really logical and appropriate. One should carefully analyze the scene in order to notice how strong the emotional manipulation that the main antagonist of the tragedy, Iago, is carrying out in relation to Othello.
Iago manages the trust of Othello as a sincere person who is expecting the same from his environment. Othello’s problem really does not lie in jealousy, but in the great credibility with which he supplies Iago. Othello’s standard-bearer, on the contrary, exploits his master’s trust, portraying the embarrassment inherent in honest people. Paradoxically, the phrase uttered by Othello himself that omissions are a common game for deceitful people should be testifying against Iago, but in fact it only proves the naivety of the protagonist of the tragedy. Iago weaves a web of intrigue, portraying the ultimate desire to protect his master from the truth, in fact, step by step leading him to accept the main lie.
Iago’s false desire to protect Othello from unreliable conjectures is especially noticeable in his warning about jealousy: “It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (Shakespeare, 1603). It is after this warning that Iago begins the next stage of deception – he convinces Othello not to believe himself, as if hoping to keep his faith in Desdemona, not to disturb his thoughts. But it was at this moment that Iago finally sowed doubt in the soul of Othello – for everything that he says in an amazing way not only turns out to be a lie, but also serves the exact opposite of the stated goals.
Discussion Board Question
In the 66th line of the first act, Iago says the phrase “I am not what I am”. How does this paradoxical characteristic find confirmation during the subsequent action of the tragedy?
Shakespeare, W. (1603) The tragedy of Othello, the moor of Venice. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web.