Who's to Blame?

7:43 PM

       Because Othello by William Shakespeare follows a complex course of events, I often found myself confounded. It wasn’t that I did not understand what was happening, it wasn’t a miscomprehension of Shakespearean language, and it wasn’t a general lack of knowledge pertaining to the play. The problem with Othello was simple: who is to blame? Is it our tragic hero, Othello, thanks to his hamartia? Could it be Iago, his ancient, with his manipulative tongue and wicked demeanor?

       For me, it is extremely difficult to place blame on one or the other. Both had their fair share of actions that spiraled into further problems, but with further contemplation, I felt that Iago was the clear choice. No matter what the happenings were within the play, Iago could be found in their midst, typically controlling the situation through is lies and devious actions.

       To begin his madness, Iago finds it most suitable to inform Desdemona’s father of her elopement to Othello. However, it must be clear that he does not do this on his own, but he enlists the help of Roderigo. Right from the start, he traps four people within his elaborate plot for revenge. Once Brabantio is aware of the marriage, he is just as angered as Iago would have hoped for. Although this was simply fate assisting Iago’s scheme, he was the man who got the ball rolling.

       As Iago is driving a wedge between Othello, Desdemona, and her father, he is also thinking of ways to weave Cassio into his plan. When he sees Cassio greeting women with a polite kiss, he begins to consider the idea that he can convince Othello that Desdemona is truly in love with his lieutenant. Since he is Iago, he can’t simply end things here, so he gets Cassio drunks, starts a fight, and Othello fires Cassio. Still think Othello could be to blame for the tragedy?

       Just when you think Iago is filled to the brim with blame, he plans another scheme. He musters up a plot to solidify the idea that Cassio will get involved in his revenge; Iago, under the false pretenses that he is helping Cassio, suggests that he appeals to Desdemona to get his job back. After a long sequence of events, this leads to Cassio ending up in possession of Desdemona’s handkerchief, which he gives to his mistress. Of course, Othello happens to see this, and the endless tragedies follow suit.

       One may argue that had fate not come into play, Iago’s plans would have crumbled beneath him. However, he still pursued these endeavors, all while Othello was kept in the dark. Throughout Othello, the only people made aware of the truth were Iago and the audience; if Othello had been unknowingly falling into Iago’s trap, how could be to blame? Othello made it clear that he felt so passionately for Desdemona that nothing else mattered to him; he was so blinded by love, so ardent about their marriage that he was willing to do anything. Iago was aware of this fervor and took advantage of that as he sought revenge, and for that he is truly to blame. 

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2 comments

  1. I found myself caught in the same problem when I was first introduced to this assignment. It was a hard decision to make, because it could go both ways. But just like you I finally came to a decision. You came to the conclusion that it was Iago to blame for the tragedy, because everything goes back to his plan. He was the one who initiated the plan and his plans were carried out. If he had not thought of his various plans and carried them out then it can be argued that those events would have never happened. I liked how you explained Iagos plans that Iago made rather than just saying he was a mastermind and came out with agendas that led to the tradegy in the end. You also introduced the idea that throughout the book we see Iago making up all these plans, but Othello does not do what Iago did.

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  2. I agree that Iago was to blame for this unfortunate event. At the beginning I was also very confused because Othello did do many things that occasionally sent the characters spiraling. Then I thought, why is it Othello's fault that Iago wants to get revenge? You wouldn't wish death upon someone and their whole family just because they did not give you the job you wanted. Once I figured out it was Iago, more of the reasons it was him to blame came through. When he woke Brabantio and got him angry was one because it was the start of his plan of dragging everyone in to destroy them as well, resulting in him being superior to all. Overall, I agree with you that Iago was definitely to blame.

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