A desire for revenge can overcome a person and have great detrimental effects. This is especially true in the play Othello by William Shakespeare. The play takes place in a time of war between Italy and Turkey. The play begins in Venice, Italy but then shifts to the island of Cyprus for the remainder of the play. In the play, the main antagonist Iago was not chosen for a position of lieutenancy by his general, Othello. Othello had chosen a man named Cassio over Iago. Iago, being very envious of Othello and Cassio, plots a plan for revenge.
Early on in the play, we find that Othello has complications in his marriage to Desdemona. Othello and Desdemona are seen as opposites in which Desdemona is an innocent, sweet, high class white woman, while Othello is a tough, ugly, and black war general. Iago, using this knowledge, begins to plot his revenge. Iago says, “I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets ‘has done my office. I know not if’t be true, but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety” (Act 1, iii, 429-433).
Iago, in this quote, suggests that a rumor about Othello sleeping with his wife may not be true, but he will pretend it is in order to better his plot for revenge. Iago’s first step in the plan was to endanger Othello’s relationship by telling Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, about their marriage. Othello claims he will not hide because he has nothing to be afraid of and ask Iago if he agrees. Iago says, “By Janus, I think no” (Act 1, ii, 38). Iago alludes to the Greek god Janus that supposedly had two faces. This is an example of dramatic-irony because the audience knows that Iago himself is two-faced since he pretends to be nice but in actuality is trying to get revenge; Othello is also unaware of Iago’s other motives.
Iago, in his plot for revenge, often uses psychological means to manipulate people. When Brabantio is talking to Othello, he says “She has deceived her father, and may thee” (Act 1, iii, 333-334). Brabantio believed that since Desdemona was not loyal to her father, she may also deceive Othello. This is an example of foreshadowing because Othello will be lead on to believe that Desdemona is not loyal to him. Iago, later in the play, alludes to Brabantio’s warning and says, “She did deceive her father, marrying you, and when she seemed to shake and fear your looks, she loved them most” (Act 3, iii, 237-240). Iago, being very diabolical, enhances Othello’s doubts about his marriage. This doubt in Othello’s mind comes into play later in Iago’s plans for revenge. Iago shows that he will use any means to get his revenge, whether it be lying or manipulating any insecurities in others.
Near the end of the play, Iago’s plan has progressed as he had planned: Othello does not trust Desdemona or Cassio, Iago had gotten Cassio fired, and Othello still has complete trust in Iago. Othello had given Desdemona a handkerchief when they had gotten married which symbolized everything holding their relationship together. Iago gets a hold of the handkerchief and plants it on Cassio. This becomes proof for Othello that Desdemona is cheating on Othello with Cassio. Othello becomes so angry he kills Desdemona. Emilia, Iago’s wife, walks in after Othello strangles Desdemona and in shock tries to explain what Iago has done to him. Iago comes in and tries to stop Emilia; he then stabs her because she wouldn’t stop. Iago’s plan had been revealed and Othello is traumatized. Othello exclaims “But why should honor outlive honesty” (Act 5, ii, 293)? Othello, trying to comprehend what he has done, questions how the reputation of being honorable could outlast honor itself. Iago, so bent on getting revenge for the sake of his reputation, had killed his very own wife.
At the beginning of the play, Iago had said that he heard a rumor about Othello sleeping with his wife. He didn’t know if it was true but said he would pretend it was in order to fuel his desire and plot for revenge. Throughout the play, Iago had used any means to complete his goal. For example, Iago used psychological means to manipulate Othello into doubting his relationship with Desdemona. Iago then lied to Othello and tricked him into believing that Desdemona was having an affair with Cassio.
If Emilia had not told Othello, he may not have known about Iago’s plan at all. Iago kills Emilia for telling Othello, which is ironic because Iago used the rumor about Othello and his wife to fuel his revenge. Iago’s desire for revenge became so great that when Emilia ruined his plan, he killed her. Instead of killing Iago, Othello says, “I’d have thee live, for in my sense ‘tis happiness to die” (Act 5, ii, 340-341). Iago will be kept alive and most likely tortured because killing him would be a punishment not worthy of Iago’s actions. Iago’s desire for revenge ultimately overcame him and caused many detrimental effects in his life as well as many others. In conclusion, one should never seek revenge.
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