Trace the steps by which Iago arouses Othello's suspicions.Please help me, im having the hardest time understanding this book and i need to answer this question.

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'll try to explain Iago's complicated plot in easy-to-understand steps.

Step 1: Get Cassio, Othello's right-hand man fired, so that Othello no longer views him as honorable. (Iago does this by getting Cassio drunk and involved in a brawl.)

Step 2: Convince Cassio that the only way he can get Othello's trust and respect back is to plead his case before Othello's wife Desdemona so that she will talk to Othello.

Step 3: Arrange to be walking with Othello when they just "happen" to see Desdemona and Cassio talking quietly.

Step 4: Make suggestive comments to Othello about Cassio's way with the women and his relationship with Desdemona.

Step 5: Warn Othello to watch his wife closely (so that he will notice all the ways in which Iago plans to frame Desdemona and Cassio).

Step 6: Provide the "ocular proof" that Othello asks for.  At the end of their conversation, Othello is not entirely convinced that Desdemona would be unfaithful to him; for all that Iago has provided so far are innuendos and lewd observations.  The visual proof ends of being the handkerchief that Othello lovingly gave to Desdemona ending up in Cassio's hands.

I hope that this helps.  Iago is the perfect two-faced character, and his plot to bring down Othello and Cassio involves master manipulation and numerous characters; so I know that it gets confusing in Acts 2 and 3.

Megan Clauhs eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Iago primarily uses cuckoldry (or the fear of it) to undo Othello. At the time the play was written, men were terrified that their wives would cheat on them; it was seen as emasculating. Othello, as a black man, already feels inadequate in a predominantly white society, so it is not difficult for Iago to plant the seed that perhaps Othello is inadequate as a man, as well. He achieves this by targeting Othello's lieutenant, Michael Cassio. Iago instigates a drunken brawl that was considered unseemly for a man of Cassio's standing, so Cassio was stripped of his rank. Iago then goes to Cassio and suggests that approaching Othello about regaining his rank would be unwise, but talking to Othello's wife, Desdemona, would be more productive.

Iago times it so that Othello sees Cassio and Desdemona talking, instantly raising his suspicions. He then hints to Othello that Cassio has a womanizing reputation, only furthering Othello's suspicions that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. But as these are only suspicions, Iago has to take it a step further. He convinces his wife, Emilia, who is Desdemona's lady-in-waiting and desperate to please her husband, to steal the handkerchief Othello gave Desdemona and make sure it ends up with Cassio.

When Othello sees the handkerchief in Cassio's possession, it is the final straw, and he decides that he is being cuckolded.