The most harmful and destructive illusion that Othello has about another character is his mistaking of Iago as a friend. The play’s action—misunderstandings, lies, and murders—results from Othello’s illusion about Iago as a trustworthy ally.
When we first meet Iago, we receive intimations of his duplicitous nature. In act 1, scene 1, he confesses, “I am not what I am.” (60) When Othello passes Iago over as his lieutenant—choosing the less experienced Casio instead—Iago is irate but hides his anger from Othello. Instead, he plots his revenge.
Ironically, Othello defends Iago to Cassio, saying “Iago is most honest” (II.iii.6). We know, however, that this is exactly the opposite of Iago’s true nature! Othello believes that Iago is loyal. In act 3, scene 3, Iago continues to pledge respect, calling him his “noble lord” (94). When Iago tells Othello, “My lord, you know I love you,” (116) Othello illustrates that he has been completely fooled with his reply: “I...
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