Analyse The Dramatic Effect Of The Devices Iago Uses In Act III S

  • Category: English
  • Words: 5521
  • Grade: 87

Shakespeare's tragedies of this kind are all based around the idea of the downfall of a hero whom the audience has had a chance to relate to. Othello is indeed heroic at the beginning of this play but would have been different in a major way from the ill-fated Hamlet or Macbeth to the Elizabethan audience. He was black. His was a race that was generally portrayed as inferior or evil in Elizabethan theatre and yet here was a Moor playing the hero, a well educated, dignified hero at that. But can a black man, however comfortably he seems to fit into society ever truly feel secure in a world dominated by white people? Will he always feel like an outsider? He is exploited by the virulent Iago who cleverly manipulates him in to believing he has been "cuckolded" and drives him to homicide and then suicide through the use of dramatic devices. In this essay I shall look at how Iago manages to convince Othello of his wife's infidelity in the pivotal scene of Act III Scene3. I will also consider who is to blame for the tragedy. Although it is easy to hate Iago and attach all the blame to him putting the other supposedly "good" characters on a pedestal I hold every important character in the plot at fault. It is only through other characters flaws/qualities (depending on whose viewpoint you take) that Iago is able to achieve his means.

Dramatic devices are techniques/language used to create tension for the audience and usually have a purpose within the play, in the case of those I shall be examining Iago uses them to make Othello believe his wife has been unfaithful. Dramatic devices are chiefly for the audience rendering a play believable and understandable. It gives a play depth and makes the plot and interpretation of it more complex. Before dramatic devices the play has only the black and white outlines of a colouring book but after it is coloured in with all the colours in the pencil case of language. Dramatic devices can get an audience involved in the play, leaving them frustrated they cannot change the plot or forewarn a character of what is to come. For example Iago's soliloquies inform the audience of Iago's plan and leave them dissatisfied they cannot intimate the good character of Othello of his evil intentions. They are chiefly used to make Iago's pretences of Desdemona's infidelity more tenable to the audience (and Othello) than outright lies by using them to imply her spurious affair with Cassio.

Below is a brief summary of events so far in the play which will help me place the central Act III Scene 3 events into context and appreciate each characters position.

 The play opens on a conversation between Iago and Roderigo in Venice. Iago expresses anger and remorse that the learned Cassio is promoted to lieutenant above him by Othello. He considers himself much more worthy of the position because of his superior experience and expresses an intense desire to get his revenge on Othello. They awaken Brabantio to enlighten him to the fact Othello and his daughter, Desdemona, are married. Iago remains in the shadows but heightens Brabantio's anger towards Othello by shouting racist metaphors. Brabantio storms off to the senate to expostulate about his daughter's marriage.
 Brabantio tells the Duke of Venice that Othello managed to win Desdemona using sorcery although it is fairly obvious he is covering up his racist notions, he cannot believe his daughter has married a black man. However, the Duke of Venice approves of the marriage because of his admiration for Othello's eloquence and battle skills. Desdemona also speaks of her love for Othello in an open and mature manner. Brabantio speaks the words "Look to her Moor, if thou has eyes to see, she has deceived her father and may thee". These words will come to feature prominently in Act III Scene 3 when Iago employs Brabantio's warning to make Othello doubt Desdemona's allegiance.
 The characters travel to the removed site of Cyprus. We see a glimpse of how strong the love between Desdemona and Othello is when Desdemona thinks Othello may have drowned.
 Iago, knowing Cassio's low tolerance of alcohol, easily manages to get Cassio inebriated. Roderigo, desperate for the love of Desdemona, collaborates with Iago and agrees to start a fight with Cassio (Roderigo believes Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona). Othello appears on the scene and Iago speaks "reluctantly" of Cassio's wrong conduct. Othello is appalled at Cassio and demotes him from his esteemed position as lieutenant. Cassio still believes Iago to be his virtuous and loyal friend and turns to him for help. Iago says, "the Generals wife is now the General," meaning for Cassio to turn to Desdemona for help. This will make his pretend suspicions of Desdemona and Cassio's affair to Othello seem more justified.
 Aemilia, Iago's wife, arranges a meeting between Desdemona and Cassio so that Cassio may ask Desdemona to convince Othello to reinstate him. Cassio is very concerned that he has lost his reputation, which he holds dearest of all.
 Iago plans to persuade Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are more than just friends.


There are four main characters in this play, Iago, Desdemona, Cassio and Othello himself. Othello is a man of calm integrity, a dutiful and loving husband who is a pillar of Venetian society. He appreciates the beauty of language and as a result is an articulate speaker. However, rather unusually we find the central character, Othello, a passive character in the play where as the villain, Iago, is at the centre of the action.
Iago and Desdemona are the most constant characters in the play (as opposed to Othello who changes) and they couldn't be more different. Each represents values and attitudes that are the antithesis of those held by the other. They are used by Shakespeare to express the plays central conflict between life and anti-life forces, a conflict, which has its battleground in the character of Othello. Perhaps you could describe them as the two moral poles of the play, like north and south they couldn't be further apart. Iago seeks anarchy, death and darkness in his pernicious manipulation of the other characters where as Desdemona strives for order, community, growth and light. Iago and Desdemona also differ in another way. Desdemona is an open book and is unable to restrain her emotions where as Iago is more introverted, has many secrets and keeps a firm hand on his emotions.
It is hard to pin down Iago's motive for this cruel scheme for Othello's downfall as you have to take into account that the veracity of Iago's words in the presence of other characters are in doubt. In the very first scene Iago says, "I follow him to serve my turn upon him" thus suggesting he wants to make Othello regret promoting Cassio above him. I doubt his motive is as clear cut as this. Later on he says he believes Othello is sleeping with his wife "I hate the Moor, And it is thought abroad that "˜twixt my Sheets H'as done my office" (act I Scene 3). This is a more likely motive. Notice, however, that although Iago says he has no proof of his wife's infidelity he will act upon it although it was true. These are not the actions of a sane man. He displays irrationality in his character. It is particularly insane in contrast to Othello who demands "ocular proof" before he believes his wife has been unfaithful. And Othello is the one we call illogically jealous. It has also been thought that Iago hates Othello because he is black. This seems highly plausible because not once does Iago refer to Othello by his name but always as "The Moor" thus determining that Iago thinks the colour Othello is determines who he is not his name or personality. He refuses to see past the surface, which is another example of him being irrational, even mad. Although I still have a problem with Iago simply hating Othello because he is black. I think that Iago hates Othello because even though Othello should be an outsider because of his race he fits into Venetian society with ease. He has gained the admiration of many important people. Iago resents him. It is Iago who feels like an outsider. He isn't progressing in society as Cassio has been promoted to Lieutenant. Why should Othello fit into society when he, a Venetian, doesn't? Othello has everything Iago desires and has deprived him of his worthy position, why should he not also sleep with Aemilia? It is ironic that a way Iago undermines Othello is by making him feel like an outsider, more like himself. But is this a play about how Iago or an evil character can bring about the downfall of a hero or is it a play about trust? Trust is a powerful weapon and it is only because Othello trusts Iago implicitly that Iago is able to achieve his means.
Cassio is a character of little substance we come to believe there's not much more to him than what's on the surface. His reputation is what he considers most important "“ "Reputation, reputation, reputation: oh I have lost my Reputation. I have lost the Immortal part, sir, of myself, and what remains is bestial". His preoccupation with what other people think of him suggests that there is little worthwhile inside of him, he isn't a strong character. We find out little about Cassio and we don't really need to know much. He is unimportant and merely there as part of the plot and to enable Iago to have some material to work with.
What is the flaw in Othello's character that leads to his downfall? Is it because he is jealous? Perhaps it is because inside he feels deeply inferior because of his race. We know he perceives himself as "Rude" in his speech even though he is quite eloquent. I believe that this (second theory) is the theory that is true.

I shall now look at the exact devices Iago uses in the pivotal scene of Act III Scene 3. These are loaded words, repetition, putting words into Othello's mouth, strategic silences and generalising.


IAGO : I know our Country Disposition well:
In Venice they do let Heaven see the Pranks
They dare not shew their Husbands. Their best conscience
Is not to leave't undone but to keep't unknown.

(Lines 196-200, Act III Scene 3)

Here Iago makes a brief statement saying that Venetian women's' consciences don't tell them that having affairs is morally wrong only that they must keep them well hidden from their husbands. Othello knows all too well that Desdemona is a Venetian woman and Iago is using this to imply that since Desdemona is a Venetian woman, what would excuse her from acting the way the majority do. He doesn't openly call Desdemona promiscuous but instead implies it using a generalisation. This is the very essence of dramatic devices.
The only reason this dramatic device is so effective is because Othello does not come from Venice but instead a land far away. He feels like an outsider at this comment and knows little of Venetian custom and tradition. As Iago so boldly states he knows "our country disposition well" and as far as Othello is concerned he is a trustworthy source of information. Why wouldn't Othello believe him? You must not under estimate the importance of this dramatic device because it will undoubtedly be very important in making Othello more and more uncertain about his wife's fidelity and his own position because of the precision of its timing. Iago places this comment just after revealing his suspicions as though to justify them.

IAGO: Good name in Man and Woman, dear my Lord, Is the immediate
jewel of their Souls
Who steals my Purse steals trash: "˜tis something, nothing;
"˜Twas mine, "˜tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
(Lines 151-158 Act III Scene 3)

This unexpected outburst from Iago comes directly after he has been fiercely denying letting Othello know what is on his mind. This generalisation is not justifying Iago's suspicions that Desdemona is having an affair but merely suggesting something is wrong to Othello, something that would rob Othello of his good reputation. We know that Othello also holds it in high esteem from his earlier quote "my parts, my title, and my perfect soul shall manifest me rightly". Iago leaves it to Othello's imagination what that something which would steal his reputation is. Convinced his perfection is threatened Othello is bewildered. This thus infuriates Othello and makes him more and more curious to what Iago is hiding from him.

Loaded words are those that have more than one meaning, depending on which way you interpret them. To Othello, already doubting Desdemona and Cassio, the most innocent, casual comment from Iago can be misconstrued to mean something dark and sinister which may seem to confirm his suspicions.
The seemingly straightforward tribute to Cassio's honesty "I dare be sworn I think that he is honest" is anything but straightforward to Othello's aroused imagination. Why didn't Iago say, "I dare be sworn he is honest"? Oh no he puts the word "think" in his statement. With think there is room for doubt. Iago seems to be hinting at something. It's passive construction and roundabout phrasing draw Othello's attention to it and suggest there is something more to it, especially after Iago has been pouring evil thoughts into Othello's ear.
Iago then says, "Men should be what they seem or those that be not, would they might seem none". This can be interpreted as those who are not true men, if only they would display their actual monstrous natures by not seeming to be true. Of course Othello will automatically think this applies to Cassio who they had previously been talking about. He might seem this to confirm his previous scepticism over Iago's strange statement. After all it does seem to insinuate that.
Of course these words are loaded not only for Othello but also for the audience who will apply this to Iago himself. They should shake with rage at the audacity of this malevolent creature and be frustrated that they may not help Othello see the truth.
I mentioned earlier that Brabantio's warning would come to feature in this scene and it is now Iago introduces it.

BRABANTIO: Look to her Moor, if thou has eyes to see,
She has deceived her father, and may thee.
(Lines 290-291 Act I Scene 3)

In lines 200-201 Iago says "She did deceive her father marrying you, and when she seem'd to shake and fear your looks, she lov'd them most". This clearly means to remind Othello of Brabantio's earlier warning. If she deceived her father, the man who had loved and cherished her all her life, what would stop her from deceiving her husband? I should think Othello would be quite distraught at this proposition. We see how far Iago's insinuation has penetrated when Othello starts to echo Brabantio himself.

OTHELLO: And yet, how nature erring from itself -.
(Line 222 Act III Scene 3)

BRABANTIO: It is a judgement maimed and most imperfect
That will confess perfection so could err
Against all rules of nature.
(Lines 98-100 Act I Scene 3)

Notice how Brabantio and Othello use the same key words "Nature" and "err". Othello seems to be in virtual agreement with Brabantio's view that Desdemona's behaviour in choosing her husband was unnatural and must have been affected by sinister means.

Poor, naïve Desdemona's speeches are riddled with loaded words to Othello. He would normally see nothing in them but since Iago had made him begin to doubt he looks for confirmation of his wife's infidelity everywhere. A particularly prominent phrase is that of "hath ta'en your part". Desdemona means that she has taken it upon herself to argue Cassio's suit to Othello but to Othello it could mean something sexual. It plants an image in his brain which is much stronger than any words Iago could say for it is a product of his own imagination.


OTHELLO ; O yes, and went between us very oft.

IAGO : Indeed?

OTHELLO : "˜ Indeed? "˜ Ay indeed. Discern'st thou ought in that?
Is he not honest?

IAGO ; Honest, my Lord?

OTHELLO : "˜ Honest? "˜ Ay, honest.

IAGO : My Lord, for ought I know.

OTHELLO : What dost thou think?

IAGO : Think, my Lord?

OTHELLO : "˜ Think, my Lord? "˜ By Heaven, thou echo'st me, As if there
were some Monster in thy thought too hideous to be
shewn.
(Lines 96-105 Act III Scene 3)

In this excerpt from Act III Scene 3 we see an obvious use of repetition. The dramatic effect seems quite clear to Othello as well as the audience this time -he tells Iago he is echoing him because he is hiding something terrible from him. This of course will make Iago's lie, when he does tell Othello much more believable than an outright lie. Iago is pretending to care for his Lord, pretending he is trying to protect him by not telling him what is on his mind and by avoiding the issue. Of course you are much more likely to believe a lie told to you by someone who cares for you than a lie told to you by an enemy. It arouses both suspicions and curiosity on Othello's part.
By repeating certain words Iago also emphasises their meaning to Othello. "honest" is an important word because it is the centre of the conversation. Is Cassio honest? By repeating this word it may seem to Othello that Iago thinks he's not. "Think" could also be an important word. It is in no way as assertive as know. Think leaves room for doubt, you are not certain he is honest.
It also creates the impression that Iago is reluctant to speak ill on the subject of Cassio who Othello thinks to be Iago's loyal and true friend. Perhaps Othello thinks there is a battle going on in Iago's mind "“ he has a divided duty. Should he be honest with his master or loyal to his friend? It makes Iago seem trustworthy "“ he wouldn't just tell Othello of his suspicions without hesitation if Cassio was his true friend.


IAGO ; Oh beware, my lord, of Jealousy,
It is the green-eyed Monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.
(Lines 161-163 Act III Scene 3)


IAGO : I see this hath a little dashed your Spirits

OTHELLO : Not a iot, not a iot.

IAGO : Trust me, I fear it has.
(Lines 209-211 Act III Scene 3)

IAGO: My Lord, I see y'are moved.
(Line 219 Act III Scene 3)

Whilst pretending to maintain his integrity by not telling Othello, Iago now releases the monster (see the first quote above). He has said nothing that would indicate that Othello should have reason to be jealous, but by warning him now of jealousy he suggests that there may be something about which to be jealous.
In the second quote Iago tells Othello that his mood has been dampened somewhat by what he has told him. When Othello denies it Iago persists that it has. This suggests to Othello that his mood should have been dampened by what Iago has said. Iago puts the words into Othello's mouth. The third quote works in much the same way and follows the second quote in rapid succession.
With characters in a rational state of mind this would not work so effectively because they would deny it and not allow their mind to be led. That is what Iago is doing "“ bringing jealously to the attention of Othello's mind and leaving it to work with it.

Silence is one of the most powerful tools in the theatre. It can create tension, grief, rage or confusion. This scene suggests the power of silence.

OTHELLO; These stops of thine affright me.
(Line 117 Act III Scene 3)

Like repetition, pausing now and then suggests Iago's unwillingness to speak to Othello of his thoughts. It seems although Iago is weighing up his words in his mind to Othello "“ should he betray his loyal friends and be faithful to his Lord? During this time Othello's imagination kicks in.
A picture paints a thousand words. The images in Othello's mind will be much longer lasting than the words and implications from Iago. A good horror movie is not one where you see the monster, badly created by computer graphics but one where you only see the chaos it causes and you yourself imagine the monster. Iago, like a skilful film director suggests the monster to Othello by various methods of insinuation and then leaves some strategic silences where he prompts Othello to create a monster in his imagination, from which the most fearful monsters are born. Othello will mould the images much more skilfully than Iago ever could, however good Iago's knowledge of human nature is, because he knows his own mind better than Iago "“ knows what will make him believe and be angry.
Iago's stops would be perfectly timed. After he had just made a suggestion or comment he would let it hang open so Othello may interpret it and make of it what he will.
These silences will be a time of great tension for the audience as they wait with bated breath to see what will happen next. They will reflect on how cruel the torturer is being to his victim and be fascinated but appalled by how clever Iago is "“ having every thing planned so neatly. They will Othello not to jump to conclusions.

Iago is as skilled as Othello in manipulating language. If he had an idea of beauty he would find the words for it no less than Othello. In his soliloquies, Iago uses a level of eloquence rarely present in his public utterances, speaking in fluent blank verse. His bluff "honest" persona shows in his informal advice to Cassio about reputation, or the crude, comic rhyming of his description of his ideal woman in Act 2. Iago uses plain, everyday language to appear trustworthy the idea being the person who speaks crudely is honest for he has not the brains to scheme behind your back. Iago doesn't miss a trick.

I arrive at the issue of who is to blame for the tragedy. Throughout these paragraphs it has been impossible for me not to blame Iago. He certainly is a conniving character but can he be held solely to blame?
I earlier mentioned that a tragedy was the downfall of a hero through a fatal flaw in his character. It is time to decide what the fatal flaw in Othello's character is. Is it his jealousy? I don't think so. Othello doesn't seem like a jealous man, he demands ocular proof before believing his wife is unfaithful. He isn't unreasonable. In his defence he says, "you must speak of that lov'd not wisely, but too well, Of one not easily jealious". He considers his flaw to be loving Desdemona too much; so much he could not bear to think she had betrayed his love. Desdemona was his weak point. He admitted himself that he would do anything for her. When he loved her not "chaos would come again". This play does seem to have more than a little ironic prophecy about it.
Othello's flaw could have been his intrinsic weakness. His belief that he was inferior because of his race and would never be as good as a person who is white. He found it impossible to believe that someone could love him and therefore found it easy to believe Iago's suggestions.
Othello's main flaw was trusting Iago. I consider this to be a play about how loosely we base our opinions on people. Othello never tried to see through Iago but instead trusted his previous judgement "“ that he was honest. This includes racism as well. There are people in this play (Iago, Brabantio and Roderigo) who form their opinions on Othello merely on the colour of his skin. They did not look any further into his personality.
But what about the other characters? How could they be to blame? Later in the scene Aemilia filches the vital piece of evidence Iago needs to wrap up his masterpiece - a handkerchief embroidered with strawberries. This is how Iago gains Othello's 100% confidence that his suspicions were correct. Aemilia knows the importance of this handkerchief to Desdemona but Iago has been asking her to acquire it for him for ages. So she does. She doesn't think about the consequences but only the praise she will get from her husband. We know Aemilia and Iago's relationship is dysfunctional and Aemilia is desperate to please Iago in hope of a little affection. She is at fault because she doesn't think about the consequences of her actions only what they will earn her.
Cassio I can hold to blame because he allowed himself to be manipulated by Iago without a second thought. He allowed Iago to get him drunk even though he knows his low tolerance to alcohol. He is then drawn into a fight not thinking once about his responsibilities as Lieutenant. He doesn't think for himself and abides by Iago's advice that he must go through Desdemona without question and without thinking about how it will look to Othello.
I find it hard to blame Desdemona because of her purity and innocence but I must. She doesn't think about how the words she chooses to plead Cassio's case might be interpreted by Othello. In her ploy to do well she does irreversible damage, she says herself "his bed shall seem a school, his boord a shrift I'll intermingle everything he does with Cassio's suit". Isn't this going a little overboard? She doesn't think of herself and how it might affect her.
Roderigo, of course, is a very easy character to blame. If any of the characters have seen Iago's true nature, Roderigo has. But does he stop to do anything about it? No way. He is blinded by his love for Desdemona and will do anything to gain her love. Here is yet another character that doesn't think his actions through but is determined to reach their goal.
We can also blame Brabantio for arousing Othello's suspicions of Desdemona before Iago did. He made Othello feel inferior and then added to his intrinsic weakness when he complained of Othello and Desdemona's marriage thus making him more susceptible to Iago's lies later on.
Othello is a play written to be performed not studied and over-analysed. Shakespeare wrote all his plays with the intention of seeing them on stage so he had to make them as interesting as possible to the audience. He does this through dramatic devices. It is devices that allow an audience to escape from their everyday lives and momentarily become entangled in the play; the characters have a personality, emotions that an audience can relate to. The play seems believable, although it might actually happen. It is a device, which makes an audience surrender to the beauty of the language and the intricate of Shakespeare's plays.
ad 4
Copyright 2011 EssayTrader.net All Rights Reserved