What are Iago's plans for Roderigo, Cassio, Desdemona, and Othello in Shakespeare's Othello?

Quick answer:

Iago plants the seeds of doubt in Othello's mind about Desdemona and Cassio, who are casual acquaintances. He does this by planting false evidence against them—specifically, that they have been sleeping together. Iago convinces Roderigo that he can marry Desdemona if he kills Cassio. Meanwhile, Othello and Iago plot to kill her father, so they may steal his riches and live happily ever after. Iago manages to convince Othello (who is already suspicious of his wife) of her infidelity. When he asks Desdemona if she loves him, she replies: OTHELLO: Love you? MOOR:

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In Shakespeare's, Othello, perhaps Iago is the worst of the Bard's villains. Iago is jealous because he was passed over for a promotion; when Cassio is promoted instead, Iago plans to destroy the man. And to do so, he strikes where Othello is most vulneralbe—his heart. For not only is Othello newly married and in love, but he is ferociously jealous and, with help, loses his faith in Desdemona.

To destroy Desdemona and Cassio (who are really only casual acquaintances), Iago plants false evidence and spreads untruths so it seems as if Desdemona and Cassio have been sleeping together.

To get Roderigo to attack Cassio, Iago lies and says that Desdemona is tired of Othello and is having an affair with Cassio—their lips are so close, Iago says, they might as well be kissing. 


Lechery, by this hand; an index and obscure prologue

to the history of lust and foul thoughts. They met so near

with their lips that their breaths embraced together.

Villainous thoughts, Roderigo! (II.i.268-271)

Roderigo is easily antagonized. If the men fight, Iago believes that Cassio will lose his position in the military. Then, Iago gets Cassio drunk, who gets into a fight with Roderigo. As punishment, he is removed from military service.


Cassio, I love thee;

But never more be officer of mine. (II.iii.241-242)

Distraught, Cassio looks to find a way back into Othello's good graces; Iago encourages him to speak with Desdemona. He will use this time that they spend together to infer that they have been meeting behind Othello's back. At Cassio's request, Desdemona replies:

Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do

All my abilities in thy behalf. (III.iii.1-2)

Iago tells Cassio to leave quickly. The act that he seems to flee for guilt's sake, and in light of Desdemona's plea on Cassio's behalf, Iago will make the Moor think Cassio and his wife are having an affair. (Meanwhile, Iago finds Desdemona's lost handkerchief and plants it in Cassio's room. Cassio gives it to Bianca who he fancies—not knowing whose it is. Iago will use Cassio's possession of the article to prove Desdemona's unfaithfulness, when Othello asks about its absence.) 

By Act Four, scene one, Iago accuses Desdemona and Cassio of adultery. Iago does nothing to calm the Moor. His plans are falling together perfectly. Othello is enraged—how could their actions be innocent, he asks?


Naked in bed, Iago, and not mean harm!

It is hypocrisy against the devil:

They that mean virtuously and yet do so,

The devil their virtue tempts and they tempt heaven. (8-11)

Soon, Iago asks Cassio about Bianca, but Othello (eavesdropping) believes the talk of sex is about his wife, and he vows revenge.


Dost thou hear, Iago?

I will be found most cunning in my patience;

But—dost thou hear?—most bloody. (102-104)

Othello is called away, and Iago convinces Roderigo that if he kills Cassio, he will then have Desdemona. (Cassio ends up killing Roderigo instead.)

At the same time, Emilia tries to convince Othello of his wife's fidelity. He cannot be persuaded. Othello strangles Desdemona, who swears her innocence and love with her last breath. Emilia exposes Iago as a villain. Iago kills his wife. Othello, devastated, kills himself:

Then must you speak

Of one that loved not wisely but too well;

Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,

Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand,

Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away

Richer than all his tribe... (V.ii.392-397)

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From Shakespeare's Othello, explain the competition between Cassio, Roderigo, Iago, and Othello.

When examining the competition between all four characters, it is best to start with Iago, who instigates the drama that unfolds throughout the play. Iago is portrayed as a vindictive mastermind, who brilliantly plots and executes his revenge on Othello, which leads to Desdemona's tragic death and the general's suicide. Iago considers Michael Cassio his primary competition because he was promoted to lieutenant and is Othello's second-in-command. Iago feels that he should have received the promotion and is determined to get revenge. Iago is extremely jealous of Michael Cassio and uses him to harm Othello for passing him over and possibly sleeping with his wife.
Roderigo is infatuated with Desdemona and jealous of Othello for winning her heart. Therefore, Roderigo views Othello as his primary competition. When Iago informs Roderigo that Michael Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona, he views Cassio as his main competition. Iago even manipulates Roderigo to start a fight with Michael Cassio, which leads to Cassio's demotion.
Similar to all the main characters in the play, Michael Cassio is unaware of Iago's treachery and does not realize that he should view him as his primary competition. Since Roderigo initiated a brawl with Cassio that led his demotion and even tried to kill him towards the end of the play, Cassio should also consider Roderigo his competition.
Othello's primary competition is Iago, who is highly motivated to get revenge on him. Unfortunately, Othello trusts Iago and is easily deceived and manipulated by him. Othello believes the rumors surrounding Cassio and Desdemona's affair and considers circumstantial or fabricated evidence to be proof of his wife's infidelity. Othello wrongly views Michael Cassio as his competition when Iago is his real enemy.

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