Iago is a master manipulator. He knows just how to push Othello’s buttons to make him do what Iago wants.
One way Iago manipulates Othello is by playing on his insecurity. Othello is a Moor, and he sometimes feels like he doesn’t quite fit in with the other Venetians. Iago knows this, and so he tells Othello that Desdemona (Othello’s wife) is cheating on him with Cassio (one of Othello’s friends). This makes Othello doubt himself and his relationship, and it drives him into a jealous rage.
Iago also knows that Othello is a proud man. He flatters Othello, telling him that he is the “noblest” and the “bravest” man that he knows. At the same time, Iago is secretly planting seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s fidelity. He does this by constantly mentioning how beautiful Desdemona is, and how other men must be attracted to her. All of this makes Othello start to question whether or not Desdemona really loves him.
Eventually, Iago’s manipulation succeeds in driving Othello mad with jealousy. Othello kills Desdemona, even though she was innocent. Iago has achieved his goal: he has manipulated Othello into destroying his own life.
Othello felt jealousy towards Desdemona, but this was only because her behavior towards Cassio made him believe that she had feelings for him. Othello’s jealousy is what drives Iago to poison his mind against Cassio and make him jealous of the lieutenant. He uses his reputation as a trustworthy guy to his advantage by gaining Othello’s trust in order for him to believe anything that comes into his head.
When Othello is finally convinced that his wife has been unfaithful, Iago has won. Iago is successful in messing with Othello’s mind because of a few reasons. One reason is that Othello is very trusting. He doesn’t question Iago when he tells him about Cassio and Desdemona supposedly having an affair.
Another reason is that Othello is gullible. He believes everything Iago tells him without any evidence to back it up. Lastly, Othello is insecure. He always doubts himself and his decisions. This makes it easy for Iago to take advantage of him and make him believe whatever he wants him to believe.
Othello is not the only one who falls victim to Iago’s lies and manipulation. Iago also manipulates Emilia, Desdemona’s maid, into stealing her mistress’s handkerchief. He does this by convincing her that it is okay to lie and cheat if it means getting something good out of it. Emilia steals the handkerchief for Iago without knowing what he plans to do with it.
Iago is a master manipulator. He is able to take advantage of other people’s weaknesses and use them to his benefit. He uses Othello’s trust, gullibility, and insecurity against him to make him believe that his wife is cheating on him. He also uses Emilia’s desire for something better against her to get her to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief. Iago is a dangerous man who should not be underestimated.
Iago, like the rest of Othello’s court, believed him to be the most honest man. Iago was unaware that he despised Othello until shortly before his death. “We’ve seen how Iago uses animal imagery in his racist diatribe against Othello, which is grounded in the idea that black men (and women) are inhuman.” (Shmoop Editorial Team).
Iago doesn’t think of Othello as a person; he’s just another animal who needs to be put in its place. Iago’s main goal is to bring about Othello’s downfall, employing any means necessary, even if it means sacrificing his wife.
Iago is extremely jealous of Othello because he was given the position of lieutenant and Iago feels like he deserves it more. Iago is so consumed with anger and jealousy that he will stop at nothing to get revenge on Othello.
“When Roderigo complains about Iago’s failure to help him win Desdemona’s hand, Iago says that he will use her to take revenge on Othello: ‘I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; / And on the proof, there is no more but this, / Away at once with love or jealousy!’ (1.3.386-88).” (SparkNotes Editors) Iago knows that Othello is in love with Desdemona and he uses that to his advantage.
Iago starts to plant little seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind about Desdemona’s faithfulness. “Othello falls into the trap and begins to imagine Desdemona’s affair with Cassio. This imagining becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more Othello suspects Desdemona, the more evidence he sees of her infidelity, even when there is none.” (SparkNotes Editors) Othello becomes so obsessed with the idea that Desdemona is cheating on him that he starts to see it everywhere, even when there is no evidence.
Iago is a master manipulator and he knows exactly how to push Othello’s buttons. He preys on Othello’s insecurities and jealousy to manipulate him into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him. Iago uses reverse psychology on Othello and tells him that he should not be jealous because it is a sign of weakness. “Othello starts to believe that his own jealousy is a sign of his own inferiority: ‘O, from this time forth / My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!’ (3.3.446-47).” (SparkNotes Editors) Othello starts to believe that his own jealousy is a sign of his own inferiority.
Iago is successful in manipulating Othello into believing that Desdemona is cheating on him. Othello becomes so consumed with jealousy and anger that he ends up murdering Desdemona. “Othello’s final speech is full of irony: he has been ‘one not easily jealous,’ yet he has allowed himself to be manipulated by Iago into committing the ultimate act of jealousy by killing his wife.”
Another character who fell into Iago’s trap was Cassio, after he was dismissed by Othello for being a drunk. Iago takes advantage of the time when they are alone and suggests to Cassio to make friends with Desdemona, telling him, “Invite her assistance in restoring you to your proper station”. In this phrase, Iago gives him an order rather than politely using the word should.
The word choice Iago uses throughout the play is important to notice because it can show how he is manipulating the characters.
Iago also manipulates Roderigo by constantly telling him that he is in love with Desdemona and that Othello is the reason why he cannot be with her. Iago tells Roderigo, “I hate the Moor” and plants the idea in his head that Othello is not good enough for Desdemona. This eventually leads to Roderigo physically attacking Cassio and getting killed by Iago in act 5 scene 1.
The last person Iago manipulates is Emilia, who is Desdemona’s servant and Iago’s wife. Iago uses her to get Desdemona’s handkerchief from her and plants it in Cassio’s room. When Othello asks Emilia for the handkerchief, she gives it to him without hesitation because she doesn’t know its significance. This eventually leads to Othello smothering Desdemona with a pillow while she is asleep.
Iago is successful in manipulating the characters in Othello because he is able to take advantage of their weaknesses. He knows how to play on their emotions and use them to his benefit. By doing this, Iago is able to control the events that take place in the play, leading to tragedy.