In Othello, Shakespeare portrays the effect of power on many of the characters. In the play Iago is seen to be the dominant character that uses his power to manipulate fellow characters by his effective use of language and actions. In the play officially Othello has more power than Iago due to the rankings of the army. Shakespeare also explores the different types of power in the play, such as sexual power, military rank and emotional manipulation.
Shakespeare shows that although there is a high level of power within different characters there are many different ways in which this power is used and abused. Shakespeare’s presentation of power in the play is shown in a variety of different ways. One of the main demonstrations of power is shown by the male dominance over women and the control men possess over women. This is shown through Bianca as her status in the play is no more than a prostitute “I marry her? What! A customer? ” here Cassio showing no loyalty towards Bianca.
In the play women are degraded due to their gender in addition Shakespeare shows how financially dependant women were upon men, reflecting the early views in the Venetian society, this was a common perspective of the view men held of women in the early 18th century, this act is shown through Iago and Emilia’s relationship by the power Iago has over Emilia and uses to control her “Be wise and get you home” he states this which shows the natural instinct of power that he has over Emilia. Manipulation is one of the important themes of the play it is very common and is used in various ways.
Shakespeare presents manipulation through Iago’s language and his deceiving actions. Iago uses his manipulative language and actions to find control over the fellow characters for different reasons in the play. One aspect of Iago’s manipulative language is that he states brief sentences encouraging the person to jump to conclusions “Cassio, my lord? No, sure I cannot think that he would steal away so guilty like seeing you coming” this is indicated towards Othello, where Iagos language is seen to be supportive towards Othello however the audience can see that Othello is being manipulated in to believing that Cassio is seen to be guilty.
One other strategy of Iago’s manipulative language is dropping brief hints mentioning something in hope encouraging the opposing character to wander on and lead them to assumptions when he says “Ha I like not that” Iago is manipulating Othello in to believing that Cassio is doing something wrong and making Othello wonder what he is actually doing, this is showing the strong position of power Iago is in. The audience can see Iagos manipulation in action as he shouts towards Brabantio that Othello has taken his daughter away signifying it to be a bad thing with his choice of words ” Awake!
What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves! ” indicating towards Othello that he is something so hideous and that Brabantio needs to take action. The result of Brabantio’s anger was lead from Desdemona avoiding her father’s choice of marriage and choosing to marry Othello who is a Moor, not a Venetian, which automatically lowers his stature from Brabantio’s view, Brabantio wanted to be the person to find Desdemona a rich husband who can carry on the chain of the family’s wealth where as Desdemona chooses Othello who is an army general where he does not have a lot of money, only some prestige.
In addition, he is old; he was also Brabantio’s friend. The thought that could have ran through Brabantio’s head would have been that Army life would keep both of them out of Venice, and prevent him from seeing his daughter, or future grandchildren. These are the reason that resulted his severe anger towards Othello and Desdemona eloping. Through Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies we can see Iago’s true intentions allowing the audience to not be deceived as the rest of the characters in the play.
This allows the audience to sympathise with Othello, as we know the truth of Iago’s ways and deceptions which gives the audience the power of judgment “for my sport and profit” Iago states how he is going to use his power to manipulate Rodrigo. The audience has in view to his sadistic ways of control over characters; also seen is his intelligence and psychological analysis allowing the manipulation of characters. Rodrigo’s love for Desdemona is manipulated by Iago’s power and deception. Rodrigo who offered his hand in marriage to Desdemona and was rejected, “my daughter is not for thee”.
Now his love is married to the “valiant moor” Rodrigo continues to believe he can attain her love and is willing to do anything to achieve his lustful objective by Iago assuring Rodrigo that as soon as Desdemona’s “blood is made dull with the act of sport,” she will lose interest in Othello and seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere. Iago plays on Rodrigo’s love for Desdemona as he knows that he would do anything to get Desdemona, this means that Iago is able to use Rodrigo to his advantage but by deceiving and lying to him he makes Rodrigo believe that he may be able to finally get Desdemona, for his own advantages.
Put money in thy purse” because of Iago’s power over Rodrigo he is able to take what his heart desires to his own advantages. The entrapment of Cassio is one of the important parts of Shakespeare’s presentation of power, this act between Iago and Cassio shows the significance of power because Cassio who is basically controlled by Iago leading him to be one of the causes to the downfall of Othello.
The reason why Cassio is believed to be one of the main part of Othello’s downfall due to the course of Iago encouraging Cassio to drink which would lead Iago to play his manipulative part, Cassio previously stated that he does not do well when he is drunk “I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking” Cassio explains to Iago that he cannot handle drinking, this however convinced Iago that getting Cassio drunk he would cause potential obstruction towards Othello and Desdemona’s relationship however this is one of Iago’s sadistic ways in addition his other cruel objective is believed to be that he wants to destroy Othello emotionally and mentally.
Iago uses his military status to his advantage, as he is in the army in which fellow characters in the play are intimidated by him this however is his key strategy to manipulate and deceive them, the reasons to why Iago is out to destroy Othello would be jealousy, jealousy because of Othello being higher ranked, being with Desdemona and jealous that fellow troops and people show him respect even though he is black. With Iagos jealousy it breaks down to power and how he uses that power to get what he wants, how he uses his power is shown through out the play through his spiteful language and deviant actions.
One of the reasons Iago develops hate for Othello is when he promoted Cassio instead of him “forsooth, a great arithmetician, one Michael Cassio” referring to him with hate by saying he is middle class and not worthy of the job. As Shakespeare presents power in the play largely from Iago other important themes are introduced such as racism, racism is a very important element of the theme power. Othello’s race is undoubtedly a source of tension due to being the only black person in that environment, by Othello being black it seems to lead the fellow white characters in the play to be superior towards him even though Othello is higher ranked then most of them. The lack of respect they show towards Othello shows they do not treat him like any other but treat him as if he were something else.
Evidently we see the lack of respect by the racist remarks shown towards Othello “old black ram, thick lips and the moor” showing disrespect towards Othello considering themselves to have the right to state these remarks openly concluding to the physiological power they have over him in mind frame, this leads to Othello’s vulnerability where he is never forgotten of his racial status and being an outsider from the lack of respect shown towards him. The reason for the racist remarks towards Othello behind his back are that they feel intimidated by him being a strong black person with a big heart and enormous amount of courage and is not afraid to speak his mind.
Othello is presented as a powerful man, throughout the play we can see he is not intimidated or feared by anyone, as audiences we can see that he stands his ground and does not have anyone in the play push him around even when they questioned Othello about him taking and marrying Desdemona he still stood his ground and spoke out the truth confidently, he felt that his guilty free conscience will free him from conviction or any other sort of justice “send for the lady to the sagittary and let her speak of me before her father” showing that he is knows he is right and not afraid that Desdemona will seek justice upon him.
As the fellow characters in the play know how powerful he is mentally and emotionally, this is one of the important reasons the state need a person like Othello such as his heart and courage, that is also the reason why Iago’s only strategy was to manipulate and control his mind with false information because Iago perhaps knew that he is too dominant to try over powering any other way and the only result was to manipulate and deceive where as Iago’s additional victims of control such as Cassio was carried out in a different strategy by getting him drunk and using him as he was vulnerable feeding him false information.
The manipulation over Othello was lead by Iago pressurising Othello to believe that the reason Desdemona did not like him was due to his race the also lead him to compare himself to Cassio, him being black and Cassio being white it could have made sense in his mind. Summarising, we can see that Shakespeare’s presentation of power is one of the important themes in the play indicating towards the power of manipulating, deceiving and controlling these aspects are tend to be seen mostly through Iago’s actions, throughout the play we as the audience can see that he tends to manipulate and control wherever he goes also when there is controversy he seems to be the cause of it.
Power in the play also collides with other themes in the play such as racism and jealousy these two themes would naturally come from the form of power such as jealousy, looking closely at Iago because of his jealousy of Othello and Desdemona’s relationship he is led to over power and manipulate fellow characters in the play to destroy their relationship in addition to racism you can see the obvious status of Othello being the outcast in the play, weighing up the evidence we can see that there are signs of effective racism in the play by the he racist remarks and the unusual treatment towards Othello.
Othello is seen to be different in the play because of his race therefore reflects on other decisions such as if Desdemona were to run away with a white person Brabantio’s reactions would tend to be completely different knowing that he is the same race. Iago is to be hungry for power, and he will do anything to get it. He realizes that by using people’s emotions such as anger and jealousy characters such as Cassio and Rodrigo, he can control them. This led to his rise in power but caused the deaths of Othello, Desdemona, and Rodrigo, eventually leading to his downfall.