Othello: A Play of Self-deception
“Othello” is a play based around the theme of deception and the emotional turmoil it causes. Acts of deception ultimately lead to the downfall of the three main characters in the play: Othello, Iago and Desdemona. However, the audience is left to wonder whether the tragedy of “Othello” is of mere deception or of self-deception. While Iago demonstrates the usual understanding of deception with his attempts to trick other people, both Othello and Desdemona are victims of the more unique and personal ruse of self-deception. Yet, as the play comes to an end with every character caught in a web of deceit, we see that Iago is also a victim of self-deception, having tricked himself into believing he could achieve his goals through chicanery. In Shakespeare’s “Othello”, the emotional turmoil and deaths of the character are the direct result of self-deception.
The characters in the play “Othello” can be divided into two different categories. The categories are those who have deceived, and those whom are victims of deceit. The first group consists solely of Iago. His attempts to extort Roderigo and his personal grudge against Othello and Cassio are examples of his work in bringing people down with deception. In the other category, Othello and Desdemona and even Iago, are victims of self-deception.
The difference between deception and self-deception might not be extreme. For this essay however, deception implies the use of deceit against others while self-deception means the deceiving of oneself. From the beginning of the play all the way until the end, Iago attempts to trick others for his benefit. In the opening scene, we first learn of Iago’s hatred of Othello. Yet Iago says “[I] will follow him to serve my term upon him. We cannot all be masters nor all masters cannot be truly followed.” (1.1.42-44) At the same time, Iago also tells Roderigo that if he were to listen and follow all of Iago’s advice, he would be...