ENG 3U1 – 71
7 April 2013
The Purposes of Appearance versus Reality in Othello
“A mask hides, yet reveals that which it hides”. This quote, meaning that one can hide behind lies or a false imposition but the lies or false imposition will ultimately reveal the exact thing it is meant to hide, is prominent in Shakespeare’s Othello. In Othello, many characters hide behind a false front, appearing to one portion of society differently than they appear to another part of society. Three people who expertly hide their true character from society in Othello are Iago, Othello and Desdemona. Iago hides behind a mask to get revenge on Cassio, Othello hides behind a false front so that he can end up murdering Desdemona, and Desdemona is viewed differently by society than those close to her so that Iago can get revenge on Othello.
One reason Shakespeare put up a false front for Iago was so Iago could get revenge on Cassio. Cassio was promoted to the position of lieutenant, which Iago felt he had earned since Cassio was only “a great arithmetician,” (I.i.20) having “never set a squadron in the field”(I.i.23). Since Iago had firsthand experience in the battlefield he thought that he was more deserving of the position. This drove Iago to plot revenge on Cassio. Iago pressured “valiant Cassio” (II.i.97) into drinking more than they both knew he could handle. The drinking turned into a brawl, Cassio fighting with Montano. Iago then changed from his truly evil self into a kind friend once Othello showed up, sparing the details of the night’s events to try to make Cassio look better, in turn making himself look better. This ended in the desired effect; Cassio was removed from the military. As well, after Cassio was removed from the military, Iago still used Cassio by talking to him about Bianca, but putting forth to Othello a pretense that it was Desdemona they were discussing. Nearing the end of the play, Iago is direct in how he feels about...