How do the language and dramatic craft of Act 3, Scene 3 and one other scene demonstrate power plays and control between individuals/groups?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Shakespeare's greatest villain, Iago, is certainly the character who controls the main plot as he directs others in his diabolical schemes. In Act I, for instance, Iago is outraged that he has not been chosen as Othello's lieutenant, and vows revenge against both Cassio and Othello by sabotaging Cassio, who has been promoted, and by destroying Othello's relationship with the beautiful Desmonda. This act of sabotage occurs in Act II, Scene 3 after Iago has convinced Roderigo to support him in his scheme to get Cassio demoted, so that Roderigo has a better chance with Desmonda since Cassio has been seen kissing her hand. In this scene, there is a celebration in Cyprus over the defeat of the Turkish fleet; although he says he has had enough to drink, Iago convinces Cassio to seek the others and celebrate some more, ensuring then that Cassio will more easily be provoked into fighting with Roderigo. As Iago talks with Montano, Cassio returns, engaged in an argument with Roderigo. Then, Montano takes Cassio's arm to forestall him, but Cassio threatens Montano,

A knave teach me my duty! But I'll bet the knave
into a twiggen brittle. (2.3.130-140)

Entering the scene, Othello asks what is happening and stops the ruckus. Always the opportunist, Iago reports that a man rushed by him and Montano crying for help as he was chased by Cassio. When Montano tried to arrest Cassio from his pursuit, Iago himself chased after the other man. When he returned, Iago found Cassio fighting Montano just as Othello entered. Angry at the foolish behavior of his lieutenant, Othello dismisses Cassio from service. After this dismissal, the unfortunate Cassio is distraught over his loss of reputation. Feigning that he wishes to help, the treacherous Iago urges Cassio to seek Desdemona and "importune her help to put you in your place again." Ironically, Cassio is grateful and thanks "honest Iago." When Cassio departs Iago decides to capitalize on another opportunity to disgrace the unsuspecting Cassio in the eyes of Othello:

...whiles this honest fool
Plies Desdemona to repair his fortune
 … I’ll pour … into [Othello’s] ear
That she repeals him for her body’s lust. (2.3.137-140)

Then, in Act III, Iago exerts power over Othello through insinuation. For, by asking, "Who is that" and inquiring if Cassio knew all that transpired between Othello and Desdemona, and by saying, "I dare be sworn I think that he is honest" (3.3.141-142), Iago raises doubts and spurs "the green-eyed monster" in the mind of Othello, who wonders why Iago says no more, wondering to Iago if he is thinking something more:

As thou does ruminate and give thy worst of thoughts
The worst of words (3.3.150-151)

In a devious manipulation of truth, Iago then deceives Othello by suggesting that he may be quiet because he knows that he is often jealous, and now does not want to seem so:

...and oft my jealousy
Shapes faults that are not...(3.3.167-168)

Thus, by pretending to be humble, Iago throws the suspicion of motives from himself onto Cassio. Iago continues to weaken Othello's confidence in Desdemona as he plants other seeds of suspicion: He tells Othello that most Venetian women are deceptive, and Desdemona did deceive her father in marrying Othello. Also, Iago grabs from Emilia the retrieved handkerchief with which Desdemona has wiped her husband's brow only to have him knock it from her hand. Then, he shows this to Othello saying that he has seen Cassio previously wipe his beard with it. Othello swears vengeance.

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