Essay on Iago and Honesty in Shakespeare's Othello

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Iago and Honesty in Othello

Iago uses the word "honest" in act three of Othello in three primary ways. The first way he uses it is to mean honourable, about Cassio. He uses this meaning of the word to force Othello to doubt Cassio's honesty, and question his hounorablility. The second way is to mean faithful, both about Desdemona and Cassio. Iago uses it in the context that the two may be "truthful," again to make Othello doubt. The third way is Iago's most effective use, which is to use honest in the context to mean truthful, as in, he has told Othello the truth. However, Shakespeare has created tremendous dramatic irony, for we know that Iago is being anything except truthful. The three uses of the word honest are used
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Shakespeare has built up tremendous subtext for Iago and Othello around this simple word in this case. Iago manages to, without saying really anything, force Othello to believing that Cassio should in fact be doubted, for his honesty. The second usage of this meaning also carries significant dramatic irony with it. Iago uses it to refence to his own honour, telling Othello that although he does not like the job Othello has given him, to find out if Desdemona is cheating, he has been "Pricke'd to't by foolish honesty, and love." Iago means that he will continue to tell Othello the "truth." However, Shakespeare has created intense dramatic irony, for we see that Iago has been anything but telling Othello the complete truth, rather he is telling him only half.

The second use of the word is directed towards both Cassio and Desdemona, in separate instances.

The first time is directed to Cassio. Othello continues to question Iago about Cassio's honesty, to which Iago replies "I dare be sworn I think that he is honest." Iago knows that Cassio is honest, at least in the terms that Othello would care about. However, the specific wording that Shakespeare has chosen seems allows Othello to read into Iago's speech, that while Iago has no evidence to prove otherwise, he doubts Cassio's honesty. Iago has also changed the meaning of the word slightly, to mean that Cassio is faithful, that he is not sleeping with Desdemona. It is as if Iago is having a

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