Can Iago be blamed for Othello's downfall?

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Iago can be blamed for Othello's downfall because he formulates and executes a wicked plan to convince Othello of Desdemona's infidelity, which influences the accomplished general to eventually murder his wife. Iago manipulates Othello's insecurities by insinuating that Desdemona is having an affair with Michael Cassio while simultaneously influencing the pair's actions, playing perfectly into his scheme. Iago also uses circumstantial evidence to "prove" Desdemona's affair, which motivates Othello to kill his wife before committing suicide.

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Iago is primarily responsible for Othello's downfall because he carefully plans and executes a malevolent scheme to make Othello jealous, which influences the esteemed general to misinterpret his wife's behavior and eventually kill Desdemona before committing suicide. Iago is depicted as a vengeful, manipulative individual who resents Othello for offering the position of lieutenant to the inexperienced Michael Cassio. In addition to overlooking him, Iago also believes that Othello has slept with Emilia, Iago's wife. Iago initially attempts to ruin Othello's recent marriage by informing Desdemona's father, Brabantio, that Othello has kidnapped and molested his daughter. However, Othello eloquently explains to the Duke how he won Desdemona's heart before the Duke instructs him to defend the island of Cyprus from the Turks.

Once Iago arrives in Cyprus, he executes his ingenious plan to get Cassio fired and convince Othello of his wife's infidelity. Iago uses Roderigo as a pawn and influences him to start a fight with Cassio, who is under the influence of alcohol and cannot control his temper. Cassio's reaction to Roderigo's provocation influences Othello to remove him from his position of second-in-command. Iago then cleverly convinces Cassio to petition Desdemona for help, and Desdemona agrees to advocate for him, which plays into Iago's scheme. Iago proceeds to plant the seed of jealousy in Othello by manipulating his insecurities and insinuating that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. Iago also reminds Othello that Desdemona has already deceived her father once and manages to acquire her beloved handkerchief, which he uses as "proof" of her infidelity.

The more Desdemona advocates for Cassio, the more Othello becomes convinced that she is romantically interested in him. Iago then mentions that he saw Cassio using her handkerchief, which Desdemona cannot produce, and Othello also misinterprets Cassio's conversation with Bianca. By exploiting Othello's insecurities, awakening his jealousy, manipulating Cassio and Desdemona, and using circumstantial evidence as proof of their affair, Iago persuades Othello to murder his wife. Following Desdemona's murder, Iago's wicked plan is exposed and Othello is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse. Tragically, Othello commits suicide at the end of the play, and Iago is arrested.

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Iago can be blamed for Othello's downfall because it is his innate evil, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment towards the general that leads him to initiate an evil plot, not only to punish him but to get rid of him completely. Iago's ill-feeling towards the general exists even before Othello's appointment of Cassio as his lieutenant. At the beginning of the play, Iago informs Roderigo that Othello's promotion of Cassio instead of him is what gives him cause for revenge. The appointment, however, is just the catalyst Iago needs to set him on his journey of destruction.

From his point onward, Iago sets about lying, deceiving, manipulating, and misleading others (including Othello) so that his lust for revenge and his inherent desire for malice may be satisfied. He first uses Roderigo to convince Brabantio, Desdemona's father, that Othello has kidnapped his daughter and is molesting her when, in fact, she has decided to elope with the general because she loves him. The deceived Brabantio believes Iago and Roderigo's lies but fails in having Othello demoted or arrested when his daughter comes to her love's defense. The embittered Brabantio then plants a pernicious seed in Othello's mind by telling him that he should beware for, if his daughter could betray him, she might betray him as well.

Othello's transfer to Cyprus provides Iago with the ideal opportunity to further his plot. He cleverly draws Cassio into a brawl by using Roderigo, and when the lieutenant is dismissed by the general, Iago deviously concocts a plan to convince Othello that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. He tells the unsuspecting ex lieutenant to ask Desdemona to intervene on his behalf and speak to her husband about his reappointment.

Iago loads his rhetoric with innuendo and suggestion when he talks to Othello. He also gains his trust and confidence to such an extent that the general emphatically believes that he is acting in his best interests. When Iago sees, for example, Cassio trying to leave Desdemona's company surreptitiously, he declares "Ha! I like not that." His statement immediately piques Othello's interest and Iago cleverly plays him until the general is suspicious of Desdemona's association with Cassio.

To confirm Othello's suspicions, Iago speaks of an incident where Cassio had exposed intimate details about his supposed affair with Desdemona. He plants a precious gift that Othello had given Desdemona, a handkerchief, in Cassio's rooms. When Othello eventually sees the object in Cassio's girlfriend's hands, he is convinced. He vows to murder his wife in her bed while Iago will take care of Cassio.

Othello later suffocates Desdemona, believing that he is ridding the world of her manipulation and saving other men from being hurt by her. When he is confronted with the truth, reported by both Iago's wife and a letter written by Roderigo in which he exposes Iago's machinations, Othello cannot bear the guilt and pain for having wrongfully murdered his innocent wife and commits suicide. 

In the end, though, it is fair to say that Iago would not have had so much sway over Othello if the general did not feel insecure about his foreign status, his age, and his race with regard not only to the esteemed position that he had acquired in Venetian society but also his place as husband to the beautiful and young Desdemona.     

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Iago is almost entirely responsible for Othello's downfall. From beginning to end, Iago orchestrates the entire dastardly scheme that brings about Othello's disgrace and demise, starting with the alienation of Cassio, Othello's trusted lieutenant. After humiliating Cassio, Iago begins convincing Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair, a claim bolstered by his famous handkerchief trick (another deception fueled by Iago's machinations). Finally, wrongly convinced that Desdemona is involved with Cassio, Othello kills her. Once he discovers his error, Othello kills himself. This tragic series of events is caused by Iago's deception, so he can be seen as the primary cause of Othello's downfall. Indeed, much of the play focuses on Iago's construction of his vile plan, and the nature of his scheming is both fascinating and disturbing. As such, the play not only focuses on Othello's tragic end, but also on the way Iago causes it through his elaborate deception. 

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Why is Iago most responsible for the tragic events of Othello?

There are several contributors to the tragic outcome in Othello, but none so that could, or would, have purposefully furthered his or her own cause (a cause that has no grounding or truth in it) such as Iago has.

Othello kills his beloved wife—of whose unconditional love he is so assured having "won his daughter" (2.3.93). He allows the circumstantial evidence, the "ocular proof" (3.3.364), to outweigh the fact that Desdemona has chosen him above all others. His valiant attempt to defend her honor in the face of Iago's accusations already reveals that he is beginning to question her loyalty when he warns Iago that he must "prove it...or woe upon thy life! (3.3.370). The very fact that he has opened himself up to the potential for such proof marks a significant moment in the play.

Desdemona contributes to what can only be described as a catastrophic end, as she does not attach the same importance to the handkerchief. Her failure to recognize Othello's insecurities means that she does not provide him with the reassurance he so desperately craves. A reminder of the last time she had used the handkerchief (when she attempts to mop his brow) would have minimized much of the tension created when she cannot find it.

Emilia, in her efforts to do "nothing but to please his (Iago's) fantasy," (3.3.303) provides Iago with the proof he has been waiting for and enables him to continue to weave a plot of apparent self-destruction for Othello.

Cassio unwittingly reveals a weakness not expected of a lieutenant. He allows himself to be manipulated into a compromising situation when he gets drunk, which is beneath his status. Additionally, Desdemona's constant support of Cassio as she tries to help him win back his position confounds Cassio's position, diluting the seriousness of the situation developing between Othello and Desdemona.

Othello is single-minded in his attempts to prove (or disprove) Iago's claims, but this is complicated when Desdemona simultaneously champions Cassio's case when her own life hangs in the balance. In act 3, scene 4, Othello insists on seeing the handkerchief, and Desdemona insists that "Cassio be received again" (3.4.89) instead of giving more attention to her own situation.

In each scenario above and in the play as a whole, there is one constant: Iago. "Honest" Iago ensures that he has Othello's trust by playing on Othello's insecurities. Iago's mission is clear from the start, saying, "I follow him to serve my turn upon him" (1.1.42)

Iago engineers the scene when Othello is called to account for Desdemona having chosen him and uses Roderigo to create the furore or commotion. Even at this early stage, Othello has to justify himself.

Iago is instrumental in Cassio and Emilia being misled and behaving out of character. He is responsible for constantly wearing Othello down and persuading Othello that he is to be trusted above Desdemona—pretending that he would rather not tell Othello, and "put it to you" (3.3.396)—and actually convinces Othello that he is working in his (Othello's) best interests.

Therefore, it is clear that Iago is most responsible for the tragic chain of events, and his involvement from the beginning to the end with his scheming and deviousness is incomparable.

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Why is Iago most responsible for the tragic events of Othello?

I hate the Moor. (Iago in Othello, 1.3.379)

Iago alone sets in motion the events in Shakespeare's Othello which ultimately lead to tragic consequences for all of the major characters in the play. Iago's hatred for Othello is the motivating factor for every lie that Iago tells and for every vengeful and vindictive act that he commits.

First, Iago puts the idea of Desdemona being unfaithful into Othello's mind, inciting Othello's jealousy. Secondly, Iago's wife, Emilia, finds a handkerchief that Othello gave to Desdemona, and Emilia gives it to Iago; without revealing that he has the handkerchief, Iago suggests to Othello that Desdemona gave it to Cassio.

Thirdly, Othello demands "ocular proof" (3.3.400) that Desdemona is unfaithful. Iago says that he's seen Cassio "wipe his beard" (3.3.486) with the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona. Fourthly, Othello then asks Desdemona for the handkerchief and becomes angry at her when she says she can't find it. Lastly, Iago plants the handkerchief in Cassio's room. Cassio finds it and gives it to Bianca, which enrages Othello and further incites his jealousy.

Ultimately, Othello kills Desdemona in a jealous rage, suffocating her in her bed. Emilia tells Othello that Desdemona was innocent and that Iago had lied to him. Iago stabs and kills Emilia. Othello commits suicide, and Iago is led off to suffer the consequences of his actions, bringing the play about "one that lov'd not wisely but too well" (5.2.393) to its tragic end.

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Why is Iago most responsible for the tragic events of Othello?

Iago is the spiteful and evil mischief-maker in Othello. The reason for his hatred of Othello seems to lie in his resentment over the fact that Othello promoted Cassio over him, but his animosity clearly runs far deeper than that. Iago hates Othello with a passion, and this hatred drives his life. He wants to destroy Othello and succeeds in doing so through dishonesty and manipulation.

There's every reason to believe that Othello, Desdemona, Emila, and Roderigo would still be alive at the end of the play were it not for Iago. It is Iago's relentless determination to destroy Othello's happiness with Desdemona at any cost—and his heartless attempts to silence people—that leads to these deaths.

Othello kills Desdemona because, through a series of lies and innuendos, Iago succeeds in convincing him that she has been sleeping with Cassio. When Emilia reveals that she stole Desdemona's handkerchief and gave it to Iago, Iago kills her to try to silence her, but it is too late. Iago stabs the foolish Roderigo in the back when he fails to kill Cassio. Roderigo also had begun to raise questions about the money he gave Iago to buy jewels for Desdemona—money that disappeared. Finally, having realized he killed the innocent woman he loved, Othello commits suicide.

Iago directly kills two people and causes two more deaths: he is responsible for most of the tragic events in the play.

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Why is Iago most responsible for the tragic events of Othello?

Iago was the one most responsible for the tragic events in the play Othello, because he manipulated the other characters in order to bring about these tragic situations. He hated Michael Cassio and was the cause of his demise. He got him drunk when he knew it would cause him to lose favor with Othello. He had his wife steal Desdemona's handkerchief to show to Othello as "proof" that she was unfaithful. He encouraged Othello to take revenge on Desdemona and eventually to kill her. Iago's goal was to ultimately ruin Othello, but he ruined many others along the way. We must allow the other characters to share some of the responisibility. After all, Iago didn't kill Desdemona himself; Othello did. But, it was Iago that manipulated Othello and the others into creating many of the tragic events which occur throughout the play.
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In Othello, how is Iago responsible for Othello's tragedy?

Opinion is divided on Iago's ultimate part in Othello's downfall. His role in Othello and indeed his contribution to the main theme of the play cannot be disputed. However, many would claim that Othello should have had the strength of character - at some point - to recognize Iago's motives and question him more convincingly. There is certainly an argument here for the danger of circumstantial evidence in any situation.

Should you feel that Othello is essentially noble and is the pawn in Iago's plan: 

the innocent hero falling victim to Iago's schemes and being corrupted by his evil

then you will blame Iago entirely. However, others

argue that Iago's actions merely cause Othello's noble facade to crumble, releasing his inherent savagery.

In this instance, the blame must lie with Othello himself and a serious flaw in his character.

Iago is undoubtedly a master manipulator

honest, honest Iago

and takes advantage of everyone in his efforts to destroy Othello for overlooking him in favor of Cassio and for his own irrational belief that Emilia was unfaithful with Othello:

nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am evened with him, wife for wife.

Iago and Othello have interestingly been likened to each other in character. This may seem unlikely due to Othello's noble characteristics but both feel

 excluded from upper-class Venetian society.

It is perhaps Othello's own feelings of inadequacy that draw him in and make Iago all the more believable as he too shares this same sense of inadequacy.

There is a discrepancy in Othello between appearance and reality

men should be what they seem

ironically uttered by Iago when he is the very opposite of this by his own admittance:

I am not what I am

Iago's deception is what drives the characters in Othello thereby compounding the belief of his responsibility for the outcome of this tragedy.

Iago contradicts his own supposed beliefs in the importance of a man's reputation when he talks to Cassio

Reputation is an idle and most false imposition

and later of Othello, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions as to his actual beliefs

 makes me poor indeed

Ultimately then the decision to blame Iago for the occurences and outcome lie in the interpretation. What cannot be overlooked however is that a need to be accepted and favored can sometimes create the devil inside.


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To what extent can Iago be held responsible for the tragic outcome of Othello?

While the tragic outcome in Othello could be said to be attributable to the actions of Othello himself, Iago is clearly responsible for setting into motion the chain of events that lead to the tragedy.  Othello has tragic flaws, to be sure, his insecurity in love and his jealosy.  But Iago is one of the most evil and manipulative characters in literature, and he deliberately destroys Othello and Desdemona by poisoning Othello's mind. We can see that this is deliberate on his part because he makes clear when Othello is not present that he intends to cause him grief.  His stated motive is that he was passed over for a promotion, but many readers and viewers see this as a rather flimsy reason to ruin someone's life. What do you think?

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