It has been argued that it is Iago’s jealously that causes the chaotic and tragic events in Shakespeare’s Othello, This may be because of his jealousy of Othello and Cassio for their high positions in life and Iago’s manipulation of these characters. However it has also been argued that without Iago the events within the play are inevitable because the anger and jealously was already inside the other characters and Othello’s naive, untrusting character. It could be seen that Iago is jealous of other people’s success.
He may hate Othello for the authority he has over his professional life and the injustice he feels he receives because of it, “And not by old gradation, where each second stood heir to th’first”1, Iago feels that Othello had ignored the system by promoting Cassio over him because Iago is an Ancient and next in line to the Lieutenant position. In this way we can see that this is a tragedy for Iago who has been working his way up the military ladder and has the Lieutenant promotion unjustly taken away from him.
Because of this, it can be argued that Iago is also jealous of Cassio. It could be said that this jealousy wouldn’t exist if Iago felt that Cassio was worthy of the position, “never set a squadron in the field, nor the division of a battle knows”2, Iago feels that he is worthier of the position because of his experience in battle and that he would be able to organise the men more efficiently. In Iago’s eyes it is a tragedy that such an important position was not given to the worthiest person who remains unrecognized for his achievements.
Iago has the reputation of being an honest man; 14 times other characters refer to him as being honest, this shows that he must have spent most of his life being a trustworthy, honest person and that what he is doing is out of character. Iago’s jealousy is what causes him to use manipulative language, such as repetition – “Put money in thy purse”3 is repeated at least 5 times by Iago. Shakespeare used this manipulative language to put Iago’s ideas into other character’s heads and gets what wants.
He later repeats what Othello says “‘what dost thou think? ‘ ‘Think my Lord? ‘ ‘Think my Lord? By heaven, thou echoest me'”4and drops subtle hints that something is wrong “Ha! I like not that. ” Shakespeare did this to progress the story by making Othello think something is wrong and look for what it is. Iago uses this manipulation to make him appear innocent because he doesn’t want to directly say what he is thinking until he is directly asked by Othello gaining more of his trust.
This shows that Iago is so jealous that he will manipulate people and use his reputation to gain what he thinks he deserves even though it hurts other people. In a way it is a tragedy that Iago lets his jealousy ruin his honest reputation by manipulating people because he goes from being a trustworthy, loved man to a dishonest hated person, he will never regain their trust and he doesn’t achieve what he really wants, recognition of his achievements and the position of lieutenant and instead destroys and he also kills people who have done him no harm.
On the other hand, it could be argued that it is not Iago’s jealousy that causes the chaos within the play, the faults of others could be to blame. The other characters already had the potential to cause this chaos themselves, Iago doesn’t actually hurt anyone until the end, he merely suggests things and the characters follow what he says although simple reasoning would prove him wrong. Iago doesn’t force Cassio to drink “But one cup! I’ll drink for you. 5 Cassio could have refused to drink and gone to his post, the fact that he was so easily led astray by the drinking song shows that his interests lie in socialising and getting drunk, he is to blame for the loss of his job. Although Iago does advise Roderigo to kill Cassio, he is not to blame for his death. “By making him uncapable of Othello’s place – knocking out his brains”6 Roderigo should have known that killing Cassio would not win him Desdemona’s affections and Iago doesn’t threaten him into doing it, so Roderigo must have already had the potential to irrationally kill someone.
In this way, if the characters had reasoned with themselves then none of what Iago had suggested would have happened. The characters of Othello are tragic, because they are a representation of how everyone has the potential to cause chaos and their own downfalls when they are lead into making foolish mistakes. Moreover, the character of Othello could be said to cause the disorder of the play. Othello becomes so focussed on Iago’s lie that he fails to stand back and evaluate what his wife and friend is being accused of.
He doesn’t ask Desdemona, Cassio or Emelia if Iago is telling the truth before he is too perplexed in the lie. When he does ask Desdemona and she denies it, he ignores her plea of innocence “Alas, he is betrayed, and I undone! “7. This could arguably show Othello’s prejudice against Venetian women who were considered whores and prostitutes at the time Shakespeare wrote the play and shows how he is changed over the course of the play because at the beginning he receives racial prejudice.
However, it could then be argued that Iago is to blame for telling Othello these lies, telling Emelia to take the handkerchief and taking advantage of Othello’s naive nature. Although it could be argued that it was not Iago, who caused the disorder and catastrophe of the play because of the potential for chaos in the other characters and the character of Othello, Iago puts the negative ideas into each character’s heads which made them paranoid or want to commit murder.
Without Iago the characters wouldn’t have considered treating each other badly and if Iago wasn’t jealous then he would have no reason to try to destroy Othello. Although there is evidence to suggest otherwise, the interpretation that it is Iago’s Jealousy that causes the chaos within the play is correct and this is tragic because Iago needlessly ruins his reputation, Othello falls from being a calm respectable man to a nai?? ve murderer and many people are killed in the process.