36 pages 1 hour read

William Shakespeare


Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1604

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Reputation as a Means of Manipulation

Iago sees reputation as a facade constructed by others, saying to Cassio: “Reputation is an idle and/ most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost/without deserving” (2.3 286-89). He values these facades as far as they allow him to manipulate others. With Cassio, that means using Roderigo to goad Cassio to a single drunken brawl that ruins his reputation in Othello’s eyes, as well as his own. In his desperation to repair his reputation, Cassio spends more time with Desdemona, a behavior that Iago frames as sexual and romantic.

As a woman, Desdemona’s reputation hinges on her sexual fidelity, and consequently is easy for Iago to ruin. Her intelligence, good-humor, and strong will, qualities that Othello loved, become irrelevant once Iago questions her chastity. In the case of Othello, ruining Desdemona’s reputation as a virtuous woman also threatens Othello’s masculine reputation as a “noble” (2.3 144) and valiant warrior. Othello is driven to murderous rage not only out of jealousy, but out of fear that he will look ridiculous if he doesn’t punish Desdemona. He says that a man who has been cheated on is not a man, but a “beast” (4.