How does Iago poison Othello’s mind in Act 3
Othello is a character whom from the start, we do not see any flaws within, or within Desdemona’s and his marriage. However, the name ‘Iago’ is synonymous with villainy and evil. He is without much doubt on of Shakespeare’s most popular antagonists, but the question remains as to what actually motivates Iago to betray Othello so and make him ‘hate the moor! ‘? It may be because he believes the “lusty Moor hath leap’d into my seat’, out of insecurity within his own marriage, or it could perhaps be ambition about the ignited rage he felt when Cassio was promoted, however, if this is true, then Othello’s downfall is merely a side effect.
This therefore leads the reader to believe it is a reason such as those exaggerated and created within Iago’s soliloquy‘s, one which is more complicated than such, as the deliberate poisoning of Othello’s mind is evident. Iago poisons Othello’s mind in a number of ways; firstly through the carefully selected narrative order of his building of the guise of friendship. It seems to be coincidental that all of these events happen within the play and that Iago is present, such as the closeness in relationship and timings of the seemingly adultery moments between Cassio and Desdemona, with Iago to whisper “pestilence” into Othello’s ear.
Firstly, the build-up of trust between Othello and Iago built from the events that Iago sometimes himself incurs, but is then lead on by coincidence by other characters, such as Roderigo’s statement and following of Brabantio and Cassio’s annoyance at Roderigo leading to the fight between Cassio and Montano. Here, he displays his ‘loyalty’ to help Othello and the service he leads to him; “General, be advised, he comes to bad intent. ” After the fight scene, Iago again shows his duty to Othello: “Have you forgot all sense of place and duty? Hold, the general speaks to you; hold, for shame! ”
In Act 3 scene 3, the guise of friendship is stronger because Iago seems to be simply looking out for Othello and that it is within his best interests to tell his thoughts to Othello; “My lord, you know I love you. ” Also, he gives him his input on subjects, such as when he says “men should be what they seem,” so that the conversation is also light-hearted, as friends would have with one another. Iago then says in the same scene that he hopes that Othello will consider “what is spoke comes from my love. ” This mimics the love in which Iago holds for Othello so that there is little doubt that Iago is lying or tricking the Moor in any way.
From then on, the narrative attacks towards Othello proress as Iago gains confidence that he is convincing Othello by the replies and actions he sees Othello do. The attacks start briefly and are just a passing comment, such as when Othello agrees and say that “Certain, men should be what they seem”, with Iago replying, “Why then I think Cassio’s an honest man. ” This automatically makes Othello think about what Iago has said, perhaps also due to the reluctance in which he shows to talk about this issue and the way in which he seems to convey his knowledge.
He also addresses him by “My Lord”, the way in which a lover would speak to their other, perhaps to reiterate the lie that he is loyal to only him. Iago’s intellectuality and innate cunningness gives him the attributes to carry on the plot in order, even when Othello gets angry and then fires this at Iago for his thoughts on his wife, where Iago is quick to react, and tries to push his plan when Othello is vulnerable, as is shown by the line he speaks, “I do not think but Desdemona’s honest”, which is a double negative, portraying the doubts in Othello’s mind that is not entirely shown as yet.
Iago’s attacks increasingly become more confident and aggressive up until they discuss the dream that Cassio had, where Iago gives the details very vividly, instead of his indirect, reluctant manner beforehand which he then relates to at the end of the story to then build up the facade of “honest Iago”. This imagery is one of the strongest within the scene, as it places Iago in Desdemona’s position, making it all seem so much more real.
The homosexuality feel to the scene also brings even more disgust to Othello. Strong language also comes from this speech, such as “O sweet creature! “lay his leg o’er my thigh, and sigh, and kiss”. The creature portrays Desdemona as a creature of the Earth, with the contrast of Othello perceiving her as the devil instead of the pure woman that she actually is. The images that Othello understands from Iago explaining Cassio’s dream brings on the “green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on”, this being actually exactly which Iago does by bringing on this emotion from the language that he uses, not knowing he actually referenced himself through his own jealousy of happiness.
That which poisons Othello’s mind on top of this is the reluctance that Iago shows when talking of Cassio or Desdemona and his thoughts and apparent knowledge, giving the facade he does not want to upset anyone as he is “honest”, and then makes Othello think all the more because there may be something he is not being told that he should be. When asked by Othello why he asked about Cassio, he says “but for a satisfaction of my thought, no further harm. ” This could be again to build the mask of friendship but also to encourage more questions to be asked.
He also asks not to strain it to “grosser issues nor to larger reach than to suspicion”, which allows Othello to believe that there is something more within this. He also uses his own freedom in order to justify keeping his thoughts to himself and reeling Othello more so to know, as he mentioned it deliberately. “I am not bound to that all slaves are free to – utter my thoughts? ” He also asks “who has a breast so pure”, which may play on Othello’s sympathy but also wonder what it is so vile that a slave could not tell his master, unless it was about his master himself?
The indirect suggestions of comments in conversations between Othello and Iago are deliberately added to play on Othello’s mind, so that he can relate it to himself with Iago’s guise of friendship still intact, for example, the reference Iago makes to the “cuckold” who “lives in bliss” is meant to relate to Othello, however, it is indirect and knowing this makes Othello believe that Desdemona is committing adultery and that he has had to “live in bliss” under that disguise, which Iago is waking him up from.
He then uses the deceiving of Desdemona’s father to evidence the deceiving she could commit again against himself, “she did deceive her father” and sealed his eyes up, “close as oak”. This is an echo of that of what Brabantio told Othello at the start so doubles the effect it has when there is reason behind it from a loyal friend, and the sealing of the eyes shows that she could be doing the same to Othello and he would not believe or think anything other.
The reference to oak, which is traditionally perceived as a symbol of fidelity and fulfilment, unbeknown or not acknowledged by Othello at this time, however he only sees it for its appearance, strength and bonding to the ground it has, and that Desdemona symbolically has over him. Another indirect suggestions come from when Othello echoes Brabantio in saying “and yet, how nature erring from itself”, meaning that Desdemona’s adultery seems very unnatural and strange and Iago seems to agree.
However, within his speech lines 226 to 236, it may actually be a backward attack on Othello and his colour, such as the phrase “clime, complexion and degree” and calls their relationship “rank, foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural”. Also, phrases such as “black vengeance, from hollow hell” and references to the Black Sea later suggest racial undertones, however they are perceived by Othello as the grime and dirt of adultery that has been committed against him.
The comment that Iago passes “let her live” brings about the thought of killing her, which they have not discussed beforehand, where more examples are found earlier in the scene, such as the referral to the “cuckold. ” The imagery and language Iago uses within Act 3 are symbolic of those which make Othello believe more than beforehand, but are however very vague, perhaps so that the Moor can deduce the meanings himself through his running mind.
In scene 3, Iago says “were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride”. This conception of Cassio as an animalistic male produces in Othello’s mind a hideous vision of a bestial world inhabited by such vile creatures, and the world in which he did exist with elements of innocence and beauty slowly degrades with speech. Othello later responds to this comment seemingly later in the scene, “for ’tis of aspics’ tongues! displays the venom which has been ultimately been injected into Othello’s life unwillingly, that which is so painful he cannot bear to see sense. Iago uses many references to Heaven or the unearthly spirits when confessing he will follow him; “you ever-burning lights above” and “you elements that clip us round about”. This then pledges on everything Othello has ever believed in; Gods and unnatural forces of good and evil, however this obviously does not affect Iago.
He swears he will carry out Othello’s service which is not wrong, but continually gives the impressions that he can be trusted, by the language making Heaven seem something that no one could swear on without true commitment, as is deduced by Othello when the pact is made. Arguably, this act is the most important in the entire play, where it is evident that it is the point of no return for Othello. The audience can see this through a number of ways; clever methods of persuasion, the imagery he uses at the stronger, sewing the seed into Othello’s mind and using reverse psychology so it can delve deeper.