People, often are able to put illusions into someone’s head, which can manipulate how they think and this affects the person’s judgment on what is reality. Illusions can be mistaken as being reality, very often there is a person making another person believe in the illusion and this creates a deceptive appearance. Throughout the play, “Othello”, by William Shakespeare, the characters are seen to be blinded by love and manipulated by words. The play is also built on false friendship, which leads the characters to overlook the reality of their case. In the play, these illusions prevent the characters from seeing the reality of their situations and help bring them to disaster.
In “Othello”, characters are blinded by love, which makes them discern things that are not there. This mostly revolves around Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio and wife of Othello. Iago is one of the main causes of the characters’ ignorance as well. Desdemona’s love for Othello, ‘the Moor’ and a general in the service of Venice, is pure. Blinded by the love she has for Othello, Desdemona is truly convinced that Othello is not able to feel jealousy. Desdemona has lost the handkerchief, but does not worry, since she knows Othello will not be mad or jealous. Little does she know, the handkerchief represents her love and fidelity. “I had rather lose my purse full of crusadoes; and but my noble Moor is true of mind and made of no such baseness as jealous creatures are, it were enough to put him to ill thinking” (3.4.21-25). According to her, Othello is not the jealous type and is frantic when she discovers she’s lost her handkerchief, as it was a meaningful gift from her husband.
This reveals how blinded she is by love since she does not know how her husband will react and she doesn’t know how much the handkerchief means to him. This leads to her death as she loses the handkerchief, a sign of infidelity. Next, the love Roderigo, a Venetian gentleman, has for Desdemona blinds him from the truth of Iago’s scheme. Since, Roderigo has strong feelings towards Desdemona and is pulled in by the lies brought by Iago. Iago convinces Roderigo that Cassio and Desdemona are fornicating, he also convinces Roderigo to brawl with Cassio in order to get Desdemona’s love. He explains how this will hurt Cassio’s reputation, to Roderigo. “I will do this, if you can bring it to any opportunity” (2.1.271). Desperatly, Roderigo accepts. This exposes how easily Roderigo is persuaded, especially towards Desdemona. This also shows that he will do anything and will even go out of his way to obtain Desdemona.
Lastly, illusions in the play are brought to Othello by his devotion towards Desdemona. He loses his understanding of what’s going on, because of how much he loves his wife. His feelings control him and cause him to distort his own world. “Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul but I do love thee; and when I love thee not, chaos is come again” (3.3.90-92). This shows how he might not be able to control himself, since he revolves his happiness around her and he knows that his attachment to her will cause him to be hurt. He finds Desdemona’s love so powerful that without her, he believes his universe will turn into a helter-skelter. He is unable to control his own feelings and this causes him to be blind. Therefore, the characters blindness by love leads them to a deceptive reality.
Many illusions in the play are created by false friendships among the characters. The trust the characters put in friendship makes them evade their reality and leads to a tragedy. Throughout the play, Iago is portrayed as an upright and noble-minded man, he is called “honest” Iago. Little do they know that he uses his deceptive skills to prevent the characters from knowing the reality of their situations. Iago befriends Cassio, only for the benefit of his plan. After Cassio’s dismissal from his position, Iago notices his desperation. He takes this advantage to become friends with Cassio by giving him advice. “Confess yourself freely to her, importune her help to put you in your place again/ I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness” (2.3.296-307).
This shows the friendship between Cassio and Iago developing, when Iago comforts Cassio. By telling Cassio what to do, this makes Iago trusted, since he is only seen as a helping hand to Cassio. In reality, Iago is only benefitting himself by getting Cassio closer to Desdemona and using this to continue on with his scandalous plan to destroy Othello. Cassio does not see the true intentions of Iago, therefore creates an illusion based on friendship. Secondly, Roderigo is fooled by Iago, and this reveals Iago’s true nature. Iago has a great ability to judge people. Since he knows Roderigo is in love with Desdemona, he figures that he would do anything to have her as his own. Iago tells Roderigo what to do, in order for him to obtain Desdemona, but Roderigo does not know that he is only being used. “Thus do ever make my fool my purse; for I mine own gain’d knowledge should profane if I would time expend with such a snipe but for my sport and profit” (1.3.374-377). By playing on his hopes, Iago is able to swindle money and jewels from Roderigo, making a substantial profit for himself, while using Roderigo to forward his other goals.
This also shows that Roderigo is just a pawn for Iago as his true motives are only to use Roderigo, but Roderigo is too much of a fool and does not see that. Furthermore, Othello’s trusting nature, causes him to be blinded by his own friend, Iago. Being as smart as he is, Iago is quick to recognize the advantages of trust and uses it as a tool to prevail with his plan to destroy Othello. Othello truly trusts Iago, as their friendship grows. “And what’s he then that says I play the villain, when this advice is free I give, and honest” (2.3.314-315). Thus, Othello rarely stops to consider the possibility that Iago could be deceiving or manipulating him, only Iago knows of his own devious scheme to bring chaos to Othello. Finally, misfortunes are created by the illusion of trust and friendship among the characters, which prevents them from seeing what is really going on.
The characters in the play are often blinded by the misinterpretation of words. The words create many illusions throughout the play which cause the characters to become visionless. These words are often prolonged as a false rumour, and bring the characters into a state of disorder. Iago builds his hatred towards Othello based on false rumour. He hears that Othello has slept with his wife. “I hate the Moor, and it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he’s done my office. “I know not if’t be true yet I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety” (1.3.378-380). This causes him to hate Othello, without any proof. Iago seeks revenge in bringing Othello down because of false rumour. that causes him to be blind. In spite of the trust the characters in the play put in Iago, he uses this to his advantage. In order to continue his plan to bring down Othello, he tricks Montano, governor of Cyprus. “’Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep; he’ll watch the horologe a double set, if drink rock not his cradle/ I do love Cassio well, and would do much to cure him of this evil” (2.3.115-130).
Iago gets Cassio drunk, so he will not be in control of himself, for one night. Iago uses clever words to get Montano to believe that Cassio has a drinking problem and suddenly Montano believes in his deceitful words. Montano is blinded by the words brought to him by Iago, especially since Cassio’s actions grant him to be seen as a drunk. This causes Cassio to have a bad look on himself and benefit Iago as Cassio loses his position as lieutenant. Lastly, the illusion brought forth, towards Othello, is helpful to prosper Iago’s plan. Othello is easily manipulated, as he is blinded by trust and Iago uses this as an asset. Iago puts words in Othello’s mind, which is able change the Moor’s mindset of his appearance.
“This fellow’s of exceeding honesty and knows all quantities, with a learned spirit, of human dealings. If I do prove her haggard, though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings, I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind to prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black and have not those soft parts of conversation that chamberers have, or for I am declined into the vale of years yet that’s not much she’s gone, I am abused, and my relief must be to loathe her. O, curse of marriage that we can call these delicate creatures ours and not their appetites” (3.3.260-272). He cannot see the truth, since Iago has shuffled his mind with words. Othello doubts himself a little, thinking that Desdemona might actually not love him because of his looks. Iago has implanted this in Othello’s mind, but Othello cannot truthfully see how much Desdemona loves him for who he is and the way he looks. Therefore, words are said to create a misunderstanding among the characters which blinds them and creates uncertainty, which leads to disaster.
In conclusion, the characters illusion fails them from seeing the condition of their reality and causes them tragedy. The characters are shown to be blinded by love, words and by false friendship. These illusions hole them up from the truth. In the real world, many illusions often derail people from their sanity, as they cause them to inadvertently live lives in accordance to false beliefs.