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Iagos Persuasion

In: English and Literature

Submitted By marycarrollw
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From the very start of Othello, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic plays, the audience is hyper aware of the fact that things are just not going to end well. For me, these formidable sentiments stem from the play’s central antagonist, Iago, who I consider to be the most disturbing villain of all of Shakespeare’s plays. While some villains are blatantly cruel, murderous, or vengeful, real fear is evoked by villains like Iago, whose honest and gentle façade masks the sick mind of a misogynistic sociopath. These thoughts lead me to question what makes Iago powerful enough to have so many people at his emotional disposal. The answer quickly became obvious – his power lies in his speech. Iago implements Aristotle’s very basic methods of persuasive rhetoric, ethos, pathos, and logos, to masterfully manipulate the thoughts, emotions, and actions of characters like Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello.

Beginning with Roderigo, whose sheer idiocy we must briefly ignore, Iago uses an intricately simple web of words to ensnare his victim. Roderigo questions Iago’s true feelings towards Othello, to which Iago uses the very essence of ethos, the method of persuasion in which the speaker establishes himself as someone to trust and to be perceived as a figure of authority, to persuade Roderigo of just how intensely he abhors Othello. Iago eloquently and passionately explains how he was overlooked for the position of lieutenant, despite his battle prowess, and goes on to make statements like, “I follow him to serve my turn upon him”(1.1.42), and “In following him I follow myself”(1.1.58). He masterfully presents Roderigo with simple, obvious facts about himself that prove his true objective is to bring about the fall of Othello. Furthermore, his repeated, even incessant use of the pronoun “I” further drives his argument that Roderigo should trust him, as his hatred for Othello matches…...

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