Othello Shakespeare Uses the Soliloquy in Act Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Shakespeare uses the soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 3 lines 335-362 to demonstrate to the audience Igao's nature and to provide insight into his character. In this scene, Igao reveals a devious plot that involves three other characters in the play with the intention on destroying two of them, Othello and Cassio. The third, Desdemona, is secondary and her function to him is only as a vessel to carry his plan into action.

By content alone, one may deduce that Igao lacks strong character and a high moral value. It is difficult to believe that a character with a strong sense of morality would hatch such a plot, regardless of the circumstances that causes Iago's actions. We know that the circumstances that fuel his motivation certainly do not warrant this type of action by Igao. But for argument's sake, even if the circumstances were different and Iago was not fueled entirely by jealousy, his obvious lack of respect for the other characters' well being provides strong clues into understanding the type of character he is.

For example, Iago is willing to use Desdemona, who is "innocent" in this situation, as a pawn to get his desired result from Othello and Cassio. He does this knowing it will ruin her in the process but goes so far as to tell us "Th' inclining Desdemona to subdue In any honest suit; she is framed fruitful," (3.2 341-342) and that "out of her own goodness make the net That shall enmesh them all, (3.2 361-362) meaning that he knows her qualities and why she is the right choice for his plan. In these lines, he is telling us that Desdemona is an easy target because she will willingly do the kind and right thing to help Cassio get reinstated.

From his speech we know that this plan can only be hatched in the mind of a shrewd, calculating and extremely cynical individual. We are able to get the sense from Iago that he enjoys the prospect of destroying Othello and Cassio's and the planning of their downfall. In addition, during his speech, Igao attempts to justify to himself his actions, stating that in reference to Cassio,

How am I then a villain

To counsel Cassio to this parallel course,

Directly to his good? Divinity of hell!

When devils will the blackest sins put on,

They do suggest now at first with heavy shows,

As I do now. (3.2 348-353).

In other words, Iago is only offering Cassio the best advice on how to get reinstated. The actions that follow may not be Cassio's desired outcome, but as far as he is concerned, Iago acted in his best interest.

In this passage, Shakespeare utilizes several tools in addition to the plot, which effectively illustrates Iago's character flaws. Through careful analysis of Shakespeare's use of imagery we learn how cunning Igao is. In his soliloquy, Iago describes his plan in such detail that the viewer can visualize his future acts and the actions that may follow. When Iago tells us:

For whiles this honest fool

Plies Desdemona to repair his fortune,

And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,

I'll pour the pestilence into his ear;

That she repeals him for her body's lust;

Any by how much she strives to do him good,

She shall undo her credit with the Moor (3.2 353-359).

When reading this passage, one can visualize the passion that Desdemona will use to plead Cassio's case to Othello because Iago tells us that will be her nature. We can also visualize Iago "pouring" into Othello's ear the suggestion that Desdemona pleads the case because she is in love with Cassio, not because she is doing what is in her nature...to set things right for others.

The use of the word "pour" here conjures up an image of thick, black/dark, oozing poison that Iago plans on implanting into Othello. This affective use of imagery provides the reader with an understanding of the Iago's evil nature and plan.

This passage makes use of metaphors that provide insight into Iago's character and ultimately his motivation. Iago describes Desdemona as god and he the villain.

His soul is so enfettered to her love

That she may, unmake, do what she list,

Even as her appetite shall play the god

With his weak function. How am I then a villain

To council Cassio to this parallel course, (3.2 345-359).

The use of the god and villain descriptions is designed to invoke in the reader a sense of good and evil. Shakespeare could have used such terms as good and evil or right and wrong, but chose to use allow Iago to compare Desdemona to a god and himself to a villain. The use of these words by Iago however, are not intended for the true use, he uses them almost sarcastically, not really comparing Desdemona to a god and himself a villain, but as an exaggeration in his own mind the role the characters will play in his plan.

In this passage Iago also hides behind the mask of good but in reality is evil and masquerades as something he is not. Here Shakespeare has created an illusion that in Cassio's case hides not only the reality of Iago's character but also his true intentions with the plan. We know this because Iago tells the viewer not only of his evil plan but how he intends to use trickery to manipulate Othello, Desdemona and Cassio in doing one thing that will result in something entirely different.

This appearance verses reality is a common theme throughout the entire play and is effectively executed in Iago's speech. Iago's plan relies on the assumption that the other characters are not able to distinguish between appearance and reality. In Othello's case, Iago's plan rests entirely on Othello's inability to distinguish between rumor and reality. Othello must believe the allusion that Iago has created for him with regard to his wife's alleged infidelity and Iago is clearly making that assumption.

Cassio falls prey to Iago's allusions by trusting Iago's motives for the arrangement of Desdemona plea to Othello. In Cassio's case, Iago actually created a half-truth to Cassio.

And what's he then that says I play the villain,

When this advice is free I give, and honest,

Probable to thinking, and indeed the course

To win the Moor again? (3.2 336-339).

Here Iago is telling us that he in fact plans on doing exactly what he told he would do for Cassio, get Desdemona to serve as an advocate on his behalf to Othello. Iago is absolving himself from any wrong doing in relation to Cassio because in Iago's conscience, he has not deceived Cassio and therefore not created a false illusion. Since Cassio's role is a part of the entire plot Iago is planning, we know that this is not true and that Cassio has been presented with a false illusion and has ultimately been manipulated into Iago's allusion.

Iago also plans on presenting Desdemona with an allusion based on his knowledge of her strong and good moral character. Iago's plan also rests on his ability to manipulate Desdemona and he makes the assumption that she will be easily manipulated based on what he knows about her personality. In line 341, Iago describers her as "honest suit; she's frames as fruitful." In other words, Desdemona is known to be open and generous and willing to do what she can to aid in the plight of others.

From this use of false illusion to create Iago's allusion, we can ask the question, does this make Iago a fool or is he an expert in the game of creating allusions? Both scenarios lend toward his character, however judging from the nature and description of his plan and the use…

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