Act 2, Scene 1

What is ironic about the things Iago says to Desdemona


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 Iago misrepresents himself throughout the play as honest, faithful, good-hearted, and here, as both foolish and jocular. But even as he minces words with Desdemona, he is observing her and Cassio, and plotting how to make a fictional affair between them look convincing. "With as little a web as this I will ensnare as great a fly as Cassio," he says; indeed, the simile speaks truly of his intent, and of his true powers of "invention" (II.i.168-169).

Misrepresentation is a theme that surfaces often through Iago's villainy; already, he makes Desdemona seem like a fickle, lusty woman, which he will soon try to convince Othello of. Iago's speech also plays on Othello's insecurities perfectly; he speaks of Othello's age, race, and manners as reasons why Desdemona will grow tired of him, which are also reasons why Othello fears he might lose her. Iago is a master of temptation; he is able to figure out exactly what people want, and then drive them to it, often by his mastery of speech. He is able to persuade Roderigo of Cassio and Desdemona's attachment by painting an innocent gesture as a sign of familiarity; yet, all the power that is in his words is in their interpretation, for Iago is also able to say everything and nothing at once, depending on the inclination of the hearer.