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Psychology of Human Behavior

One of the most complex and intriguing characters in literature is Iago, the antagonist in Shakespeare’s play Othello. Although he usually uses weak reasoning and has vague objectives, he is an excellent manipulator who can persuade others to do what he wants. Academics and critics have written extensively on Iago and the characters he can sway, analyzing their traits as individuals as well as their personalities and behaviors. It will be contrasted between the perspectives of several academics to see whether the personalities and behaviors of the individuals Iago persuades are all different or if they all have certain traits, statuses, or behaviors. He displays his ability to persuade people by providing them with flimsy defenses. In this essay, we’ll examine the attributes of the individuals Iago can convince to determine whether there are any traits they all have in common or if their own personalities and behaviors set them apart.

Iago’s propensity for lying, according to Abuzahra and Salahat in their essay “The Power of Words and the Power of Suggestion in Shakespeare’s Othello,” results from his knowledge of the impact of suggestion. They said that Iago “knows how to suggest, how to plant a thought in someone’s mind and make it grow like a seed.” They go on to say that the individuals Iago convinces do not necessarily have personalities or behaviors in common, but rather that they are open to suggestion because of their confidence in Iago or because they are prone to jealously and insecurity. Abuzahra and Salahat assert that Roderigo is prone to manipulation because of his gullibility and naivete, which allows Lago to persuade him. Desdemona is the love of Roderigo, a rich man who attempts to win her over by giving her gifts. However, he shares Lago’s desperation and is as gullible. Lago convinces Roderigo that he should give him money so that he may help him win Desdemona’s love. Lago, however, is using Roderigo for his own benefit and has no intention of supporting him in his effort to win Desdemona’s love. Roderigo’s gullibility and desperation make him vulnerable to Lago’s manipulation (Abuzahra and Salahat, p. 185).

Feather, Pechter, Arenas, and Camara use a different strategy in their essay “Iago’s Persuasion: The Power of Rhetoric in Othello,” which focuses on the particular rhetorical techniques Iago utilizes to persuade individuals. They argue that Iago’s skill with rhetoric, which includes the use of tactics like irony, repetition, and comparison to support his assertions, is what allows him to persuade people. They hint that Iago’s targets are not all the same in terms of their personalities or behavior, but rather that they are susceptible to his eloquence. Feather argues that Cassio is a man of honor who is prone to flattery, making Lago able to sway him. Lago does not like Cassio and is jealous of his success. By taking advantage of Cassio’s need for attention and adoration, Lago manipulates him. After Lago forces Cassio to drink too much and fight, he is demoted to the rank of lieutenant. Lago then convinces Cassio to beg Othello for help in restoring his position in order to continue his deceit (Feather, p82). According to Pechter, the reason Lago is able to persuade Othello is because Othello is a passionate person who is easily influenced by jealously. The warriors adore the Moorish general Othello, who is married to Desdemona. He is readily convinced that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio since he has a tendency toward jealousy. Lago manipulates Othello against Cassio by manipulating his jealously to convince him to kill Desdemona. Lago uses Othello’s self-assurance and feelings to further his goals (Pechter). Arenas and Camara assert that Lago lies to these individuals by twisting the facts and using language deceitfully (Arenas, p43). Lago has a talent for using words to evoke people’s emotions and give the impression that his arguments are strong.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom offers a different perspective on Iago and the individuals he may sway. He claims that Iago is an expert in human psychology who can exploit the anxieties and motives of others by reading them. He makes the implication that Iago commonly persuades those who are motivated by their own selfish desires, such as a desire for power, ambition, or vengeance. Iago’s victims, according to Bloom, are “sucked in by their own passions, not realizing that Iago has orchestrated their downfall.” According to Harold Bloom, Lago’s skill to sway these people is a result of his understanding of psychology as well as his ability to capitalize on their needs and concerns. He argues that by using his knowledge of human nature, Lago may exert influence over the characters’ emotions and wants. Lago may take advantage of Roderigo’s craving for love, Cassio’s need for acceptance, and Othello’s concern about being tricked. According to Bloom, Lago is able to exert influence over the characters because he is aware of their psychological weaknesses and understands how to use them (Bloom, p312).

Contrarily, Roderigo, a wealthy and innocent young man who falls in love with Desdemona, is the subject of Cefalu’s attention. Roderigo, according to Cefalu, lacks self-control and is easily duped by Lago’s claims that he can help him win Desdemona’s heart. Despite the fact that it’s not in Roderigo’s best interests, Lago connives to get him to give him money and follow his instructions. The study “Iago’s Art of Persuasion in Othello” by Cefalu and Paul discusses the unique traits of Iago and his victims. They claim that the cornerstone of Iago’s capacity to persuade people is his charm, charisma, and clever and manipulative nature. They claim that because of these flaws—Othello’s envy or Cassio’s craving for acceptance—the individuals Iago persuades are typically frail or insecure. They suggest that the victims of Iago are weak because of their particular traits rather than because their personalities or behavior are similar (Cefalu, p. 265).

Shakespeare: The Illustrated and Updated Edition by Johnson offers a more thorough perspective on Iago and his victims. He argues that the individuals Iago persuades are typically motivated by their own desires for supremacy or vengeance, whether it is Roderigo’s desire for Desdemona’s love or Othello’s need for respect. He claims that Iago is able to manipulate people because he is aware of their weaknesses and how to use them. Johnson claims that while the individuals Iago persuades do not all have the same personalities or behaviors, they are weak because of their own motivations and objectives. Paul Johnson’s investigation into Lago’s dishonesty centers on Cassio, Othello’s servant. According to Johnson, Lago uses Cassio’s defects and vulnerabilities, like as his inclination for drinking and his hunger for promotion, to turn him against Othello. Lago eventually brings about Othello’s fate by convincing Cassio to request Desdemona’s intervention on his behalf (Johnson, p.66).

Finally, the Iago character in Shakespeare’s “Othello” is well known for his ability to convince people via flawed reasoning. Scholars may view these individuals’ features from various angles, yet it is clear that they share certain characteristics. They typically lack self-awareness and are susceptible to manipulation because of this. Despite these commonalities, they might have quite different personalities and behavior tendencies. The personalities and behaviors of the individuals Lago can persuade vary, but they all have the same trait: they are open to Lago’s arguments. Lago is a skilled manipulator who may advance his goals by playing on the insecurities and weaknesses of others around him. In order to bring about their demise, Lago might prey on the frailties of people around him, such as Othello’s wrath, Roderigo’s stupidity, or Cassio’s desire for ambition. Conclusion: Despite the fact that Lago’s victims in “Othello” exhibit a variety of personalities and behavioural tendencies, they are all susceptible to his cunning tactics.

Works Cited

Abuzahra, Nimer, and Rami Salahat. “Analyzing Iago’s speech in Shakespeare’s Othello.” Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics 2.2 (2018): 185-203.

Arenas, Enrique Camara. “Causal attribution and the analysis of literary characters: AC Bradley’s study of Iago and Othello.” (2010): 43-66.

Bloom, Harold. “Shakespeare: Invention of the Human: The Invention of the Human.” Google Books, Accessed 10 May 2023.

Cefalu, Paul. “The Burdens of Mind Reading in Shakespeare’s Othello: A Cognitive and Psychoanalytic Approach to Iago’s Theory of Mind.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3, 2013, pp. 265–294,

“O Blood, Blood, Blood”: Violence and Identity in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” It was accessed on 10 May 2023.

Race in William Shakespeare’s Othello | Worldcat.Org,’s-Othello/OCLC/730054610. It was accessed on 10 May 2023.

Pechter, Edward. Othello and interpretive traditions. University of Iowa Press, 2012.


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